Johnson Controls to sell downtown Milwaukee buildings, move employees to its Glendale campus

Johnson Controls downtown Milwaukee complex. Image from Google.

Last updated on January 22nd, 2021 at 12:51 pm

Johnson Controls International will move employees from its downtown Milwaukee offices to its campus in Glendale over the next two years, the company announced Thursday.

The move will bring the company’s North American headquarters together at a single site. Since 2016, JCI has been officially headquartered in Ireland for tax purposes, one of the outcomes of its merger with Tyco International.

JCI plans to sell its downtown Milwaukee facilities at 507 E. Michigan St. and is working with CBRE to market the property.

The downtown campus covers 420,000 square feet of office space across seven buildings. The company said it plans to lease the facilities back from the buyer for two years while it transitions its operations to Glendale.

“We recognize we need places and spaces to collaborate, build the diverse culture that makes Johnson Controls unique and drive innovation in building solutions that we use ourselves,” said George Oliver, chairman and chief executive officer of Johnson Controls. “Our Glendale campus will serve as our most efficient and productive office environment and we will continue our investments in this facility as part of our strong commitment to the Milwaukee metro area. This is an exciting time for our employees.”

JCI has almost 2,000 employees in the Milwaukee area, including 680 at the Glendale campus. Prior to the Tyco merger, the company had around 3,400 employees locally. Around 500 employees left the company when it spun off its Power Solutions business, now known as Clarios, in a sale to a group led by Brookfield Business Partners.

Depending on the eventual buyer’s plans, the JCI decision will be a hit for downtown Milwaukee as around 1,260 employees leave the heart of the city. The 507 E. Michigan site is also significant for Johnson Controls, which has operated there since 1902.

It wasn’t long ago that JCI was considering downtown Milwaukee as the possible site for a 50-story, 1.2 million-square-foot building. Those plans were rumored in early 2015. Then-CEO Alex Molinaroli said in September 2015 that a decision on the lakefront office tower at East Clybourn Street and North Lincoln Memorial Drive would come within a year. The company and city of Milwaukee even split the $500,000 cost of a feasibility study for the property.

By early 2016, however, the company had announced its deal with Tyco, pulling its attention in other directions. In October 2016, a spokesman said it would be at least another year before any decision was made. By the spring of 2018, the site, owned by the state Department of Transportation, was listed for sale.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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