The new owners of the former Henry S. Reuss Federal Plaza are now ramping up efforts to attract new office tenants as they make progress on extensive renovations to the 14-story downtown Milwaukee office building.
On Monday, New York-based Time Equities Inc., which bought the cobalt-blue building at 310 W. Wisconsin Ave. about a year and a half ago, revealed some of the newly remodeled space that are the fruits of a $30 million investment into the re-branded 310W building. Time Equities invited area business and community leaders to an unveiling of the space in the morning and also had scheduled a private open house for brokers in the evening.
Work to transform the building into a Class A office and retail complex is still at least a year out from completion, but so far has resulted in a new skylight roof and new finishes throughout. Once complete, the renovation efforts will result in modernized elevators and restrooms, a new Wi-Fi lounge on the mezzanine level, a fitness center with locker rooms and showers, a fully equipped cafe and a new tenant lounge and co-working facility, among other things.
The renovation work is still 12-18 months away from being completed. However, the owners have prepared a demonstration suite on the sixth floor showing different ceiling configurations as well as a speculative office suite on the top floor.
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The 614,315-square-foot 310W building is the third largest multi-tenant office complex in the state, behind the U.S. Bank tower and 411 E. Wisconsin Ave. buildings in downtown Milwaukee. It formerly housed a number of government agencies, though most of them moved out following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks due to the building not meeting upgraded security requirements.
The building is currently just under 36% leased. Tenants include the National Labor Relations Board, Wisconsin Public Radio and Bush Law Office.
Transwestern is handling the office leasing, while retail leasing is being handled by Mid-America Group.
"I thought that the building had architectural integrity," Francis Greenburger, chairman and chief executive officer of Time Equities, said of his interest in acquiring the building. "I thought that the area had a number of initiatives going on that were sort of the beginning of significant change. And we have taken buildings of this vintage in other markets and brought them back to life."
For example, he pointed to the Travelers Tower in Southfield, Michigan. He said the building is slightly larger than 310W but of similar design, with two office towers. After performing similar renovations to that building, the firm was able to bring it up to 95% occupancy, Greenburger said.
The 310W building will have about 350,000 square feet available to tenants, with the largest floorplate available totaling about 31,000 square feet.
Marianne Burish, executive vice president of Transwestern, said there has been some interest from prospective tenants so far, but now with renovations progressing she expects even more interest to follow. So far, the interest has come from the usual office user types, such as law firms and creative firms.
The renovated 310W building sits in an area of downtown Milwaukee that is seeing plenty of redevelopment activity already. For instance, the nearby Grand Theater is being redeveloped into the new home for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, and developers are transforming the former Grand Avenue mall into a mixed-use center that will include new office space and a first-floor food hall. Just to the north is the Fiserv Forum and related developments, such as the entertainment block and Milwaukee Bucks training center.
"Quite honestly, (Time Equities) could not have picked a better time to be part of the renaissance that's going on in the heart of this city," Mayor Tom Barrett said.
Greenburger said the ongoing development activity will strengthen the appeal of 310W, since it will be an area that will have a lot of attractions for office workers.
"I think these elements that are being added to the neighborhood are things that will have broad appeal with the people who work in the buildings as well as the businesses," he said.
310W will be competed with other new and recently renovated downtown office buildings. This includes The Avenue, HUB640, also known as the former Boston Store building, and the under-construction BMO Tower and Huron Building, both of which are on the east side of downtown.
What differentiates the 310W building, said Greenburger, are both the amenities it will offer as well as the price point. The current asking price per square foot in the building is around $18.
"We were able to acquire the building because it was in such run-down condition at a very low cost, which permits us to be very competitive economically," he said. "We can offer more value for less money, plus, we think, an A-plus environment."