Downtown Milwaukee is on a roll. The apartment development boom is showing no signs of slowing down. Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. is building a $450 million office tower on its headquarters campus. Construction will start soon on a new $500 million arena.
On top of all that, an increasing number of companies are choosing to move their offices to the downtown area.
The latest is marketing firm Bader Rutter, which announced recently that it will move from Brookfield to an office building development planned at the former Laacke & Joys site downtown along the Milwaukee River. Bader Rutter’s move, which will occur next year, will bring 220 employees to downtown.
Decision Resources Group, which has its U.S. headquarters in Burlington, Mass., will move from Greenfield to downtown Milwaukee. The firm recently signed a lease for the entire 15th floor in the 411 E. Wisconsin Ave. building. The company has 200 employees in Greenfield that will move downtown.
REV Group will move its corporate headquarters from Orlando to the Milwaukee Center office tower in downtown Milwaukee. The company will have 20 to 25 employees in the office.
In 2015, Plunkett Raysich Architects moved its headquarters from the far northwest side of Milwaukee to a building just south of the Historic Third Ward, bringing about 60 employees to the area near downtown.
In late 2014, The Dohmen Co. moved its headquarters from Menomonee Falls to the Third Ward. The company has about 185 employees in Milwaukee.
The Schlitz Park office park, located just north of downtown, has attracted several companies from the suburbs, including Trusted Media Brands (formerly Reader’s Digest Association Inc.), which moved its office from Greendale to Schlitz Park in 2014, bringing 200 employees to the downtown area. Also in 2014, HSA Bank moved from Glendale to Schlitz Park.
The former Pabst brewery complex is also attracting office tenants to downtown. SafeNet Consulting consolidated its Third Ward and Wauwatosa offices by leasing space in the Pabst Professional Center building. TCF Bank opened an office in the building, moving about 30 employees there from Bayside. Klement Sausage moved its corporate offices from the Bay View neighborhood on the city’s south side to the Pabst Professional Center.
More companies are likely considering a move to downtown. Johnson Controls is considering plans for a new lakefront office tower. Master Lock has been scouting several downtown sites and could relocate its headquarters from Oak Creek.
What is driving this interest in downtown? Years ago, many residents moved to the suburbs as suburban sprawl took hold in the post-World War II freeway era. As residents moved out, many businesses followed them. That flow has been partially reversed as some young professionals and empty nesters are moving downtown, fueling the apartment development boom. As more people move downtown, the area has become more vibrant and interesting. Notably, several new critically-acclaimed restaurants have opened in the downtown area in recent years.
Some companies are moving downtown, at least in part, to offer a more interesting work environment in a vibrant urban setting that will help attract employees.
“We’re excited about our move to a new downtown headquarters,” Bader Rutter said in a LinkedIn post on its planned move downtown. “The inspiring, collaborative space will help us fulfill our vision to create a destination agency that attracts talent from across the country.”