Von Briesen considers relocation to Irgens or Weas projects

Von Briesen & Roper S.C. is focusing its search for a new location for its headquarters on two proposed downtown Milwaukee office developments: one planned by a potential partnership of Irgens Development Partners LLC and Van Buren Management Inc. president Joel Lee, and the other planned by Weas Development, according to commercial real estate sources.
Von Briesen president and chief executive officer Randall Crocker could not be reached for comment.
The Irgens/Lee project would be built southeast of Mason Street and Jackson Street, across the street from the Pfister Hotel. The Weas project would be built southeast of North Broadway and Michigan Street, just north of I-794 and the Third Ward.
Those are the same two proposed downtown office building developments that Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP is evaluating as it considers plans to relocate its Milwaukee office, according to regional managing partner Kevin Heppner.
Von Briesen & Roper’s headquarters is currently located at 411 E. Wisconsin Ave. in downtown Milwaukee. Baker Tilly Virchow Krause’s Milwaukee office is currently located in the Honey Creek Corporate Center at 115 S. 84th St. on the city’s west side. Both Von Briesen and Baker Tilly would prefer to relocate their offices, according to commercial real estate sources. Baker Tilly’s lease expires in December of 2012 and Von Briesen’s current lease expires in June of 2013, according to sources.
A handful of other developers have proposed new downtown office buildings, but they are attracting little attention from potential anchor tenants, a commercial real estate source said.
Therefore, the Irgens/Lee project and the Weas project are essentially in a competition. Whichever project is able to attract two or more anchor tenants will have a chance to get built, and the other project either will not get built or will be delayed for a considerable amount of time. The capital markets for commercial real estate development remain tight so any developer will need to prelease a significant amount of space and provide a significant amount of equity to obtain financing for a project, commercial real estate sources say.
Another potential anchor tenant for a new downtown building is Godfrey & Kahn S.C., which plans to eventually relocate its headquarters. The firm would prefer to be involved with an Irgens development, according to commercial real estate sources. However, the firm has not yet made a commitment to the Irgens/Lee project, said Irgens executive vice president Jackie Walsh. In addition Irgens and Lee have not formally committed to a partnership for the development, but the partnership is a possibility, she said.
“We’re still looking at (the project) and seeing if it makes sense,” Walsh said. “I think everyone is waiting for us to say we have a real project. We’re juggling a lot of different entities. We just need some of these balls to land. I think we’re getting close.”
Doug Weas, president of Weas Development, could not be reached for comment.

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