Milwaukee-based developer Irgens Partners LLC is pursuing a national historic designation for the 53-year-old former M&I Bank headquarters building that it owns in downtown Milwaukee, in order to use historic tax credits in its redevelopment.
That's according to an application filed with the National Register of Historic Places.
Irgens says in its application that the building qualifies for designation for the distinctive characteristics in its architecture and construction.
The firm writes the building is, "a fine example of the post-war modern bank, a building type that projected the dramatic shifts in the banking industry in the years following World War II through a combination of modernist design, new technologies that offered convenience to customers, and a reorganization of public banking spaces for greater efficiency and improved service."
It was designed by architect Grassold, Johnson, Wagner & Isley and built by Hunzinger Construction Co., according to Wisconsin Historical Society records.
The 21-story, 332,905-square-foot office building stands at 770 N. Water St. It was built in 1968 in the international style as the corporate headquarters and main banking branch for Marshall & Ilsley Bank (M&I).
Irgens owns the property through an affiliate, WWB Development II LLC. It plans to rehabilitate the building for continued commercial use. In financing the work, Irgens will rely on state and federal historic tax credits, according to application records.
BMO Harris Bank continued to use the building for retail banking and offices after it acquired M&I Bank until last year. That is when the bank moved its operations next door, to the new 25-story BMO Tower, which Irgens developed.
The M&I Bank building redevelopment, also known as 770 North, has been part of Irgens' plans for the downtown block following the BMO Tower.
The city's Historic Preservation Commission is slated to review the application at a future meeting. Local- and state-level reviews are needed before the building can be designated nationally.
Irgens notes it received preliminary determination for individual listing in the National Register of Historic Places back in April 2019. This represents the first part in the application process.
Irgens declined to comment on the application.
Jeremy Ebersole, executive director of the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance, said his organization was glad to hear that Irgens was seeking national historic designation of the building.
Ebersole said not many buildings in the Milwaukee area built in this time period have been marked historic. The M&I Bank building and others its age are eligible since they are at least 50 years old.
He said the building is a great example of a modernist era bank building. It reflects a point in time where banks were interested in presenting an open, customer-oriented image unlike the pre-war era.
"This era of Milwaukee architecture has not received the recognition we feel it should at this point," Ebersole said. " … It'd be great to see more buildings from this era nominated."
He noted the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Wauwatosa, constructed in 1961, is an example of another nationally designated structure built around the same time. The former Finney Library in Milwaukee is not individually designated, but is part of the Sherman Boulevard Historic District. It was built in 1953.
[gallery size="full" td_select_gallery_slide="slide" ids="523534,523510,523511,523535,523536,523509,523516,523517,523518,523519,523520,523521,523522"]