National firms line up to design, manage Northwestern Mutual HQ project

Major national architectural firms will handle the design work for the new office tower that Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. plans to build at its downtown Milwaukee corporate headquarters campus.

Houston-based Kendall/Heaton Associates Inc. is the architect of record for the project, Northwestern Mutual spokeswoman Betsy Hoylman said. Kendall/Heaton has worked as the architect of record for several large office tower and corporate headquarters projects in the United States. The firm typically partners with a high profile design architecture firm on projects.

Northwestern Mutual has not selected a design architect for its project yet, Hoylman said.

“Northwestern Mutual has spoken to several architectural firms to select a base building architect, but no contract has been signed with any one of them,” she said.

However, it appears that Northwestern Mutual is seriously considering New Haven, Conn.-based Pickard Chilton Architects Inc. to be the design architect for the project. One source said said that Pickard Chilton has been selected for the project, but that could not be confirmed and Hoylman’s statement indicates that no deal is done.

Pickard Chilton spokesman Mig Halpine refused to confirm or deny his company’s potential involvement with the Northwestern Mutual project.

“I’m not able to speak to that at all,” he said. “I’m not in a position to comment on it.”

The design architect presents a broad vision for a building project, including the main renderings. The architect of record creates the specific, detailed building plan, including the creation of construction documents.

Kendall/Heaton Associates has been the architect of record for several projects that Pickard Chilton was the design architect for, including the 52-story Devon Energy Center (the corporate headquarters for Devon Energy Corp.) in Oklahoma City. A large picture of that building, which was completed last year, is on display in a room at Northwestern Mutual where materials and renderings for the firm’s downtown office tower project are kept, according to one source.

Houston-based Hines Interests Limited Partnership, an international real estate investment, development and property management firm, is the development manager for the Northwestern Mutual project in downtown Milwaukee, Hoylman said.

Hines, one of the largest real estate firms in the world, was also the development manager for the Devon Energy Center project. According to the company, the Hines portfolio of projects underway, completed, acquired and managed for third parties consists of more than 1,205 properties including skyscrapers, corporate headquarters, mixed-use centers, industrial parks, medical facilities, and master-planned resort and residential communities. Currently, the firm controls assets valued at approximately $23.8 billion, and has offices in 18 countries.

In addition to the Devon Energy Center project, Hines, Pickard Chilton and Kendall/Heaton also collaborated on the 57-story, 300 North LaSalle office building in Chicago, which was completed in 2009. The three firms also worked together on the 46-story BG Group Place office tower, completed in 2011 in Houston.

In December, Northwestern Mutual announced that it plans to build a new $300 to $350 million, 840,000-square-foot, 30 to 35-story office tower at its downtown Milwaukee campus. The new building will replace a 16-story, 451,964-square-foot, 34-year-old office building that will be torn down. Northwestern Mutual says that building has structural problems.

Chief executive officer John Schlifske has said the company wants to create an “iconic” new building for the downtown Milwaukee skyline.

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