Northwestern Mutual to demolish downtown office building

Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. says it plans to demolish one of the office buildings at its downtown Milwaukee headquarters campus.

The company says it has started a long-range planning process to evaluate and make recommendations for changes to its downtown campus. The company says it recently determined that its east office building at 734 N. Cass St. “cannot effectively serve our long-term needs.” The building will eventually be razed.

According to city records the 16-story, 451,964-square-foot building was constructed in 1978 and has an assessed value of $52.26 million.

Northwestern Mutal executives will evaluate plans to replace the downtown building with either a new downtown building, a new building at the company’s Franklin campus northwest of South 27th Street and Drexel Avenue, or new buildings at both the downtown and Franklin campuses.

“We have not yet determined the size, scope or location of what will replace the building,” the company said in a statement. “The primary focus of our long-range planning process is to define future space needs and evaluate options for meeting those space needs either at our downtown campus, Franklin campus or a combination of both, while also pinpointing costs.”

A major reason that the downtown building must be demolished is because it will require extensive, costly maintenance to its exterior and its internal systems the company said. The building is currently functional and safe, the company said.

"Aparently there’s lots of structural problems," one commercial real estate source said.

“Future repair costs were a big factor in this decision, but they were not the only one,” the Northwestern Mutual statement said. “Part of our long-term campus planning deals with creating the functionality and space we need for the future. Removing the building gives us added flexibility to do so.”

The company said it may take until late 2012 to complete the analysis of its future options.

Northwestern Mutual employs about 5,000 people in Milwaukee County, with approximately 3,000 employees at its downtown campus and about 2,000 employees at its Franklin campus.

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