When corporate law firm Quarles & Brady informed Colliers last summer that it would be exercising a clause in its lease allowing it to vacate one of its eight floors in the 411 East Wisconsin Center building in downtown Milwaukee, brokers at the real estate firm found themselves with a project on their hands.
Built in 1984, the 30-floor building is owned by Middleton Partners, a private equity group in Chicago. Colliers handles leasing and property management for the building.
In the new world of hybrid work schedules, Quarles & Brady is also working to sublease the 29th and 30th floors it currently occupies in the building, has had a lease there since 1985.
Colliers has had to find a way to retrofit roughly 22,000 usable square feet of dated office space on the 411 building's 23rd floor (the floor vacated by Quarles & Brady) into something that would appeal to new tenants.
Recently the firm announced that it inked lease agreements with Federal Defender Services of Wisconsin, Inc. for a lease of 8,734 square feet of space on the floor, and Geneva Capital Management, LLC, which signed an agreement to rent 4,578 square feet. Federal Defender Services will move from the downtown Milwaukee Federal Courthouse building, while Geneva Capital will leave its space in the 100 East building at 100 E. Wisconsin Ave., which is in foreclosure.
As it works to prepare the space for the new tenants, Colliers has been partnering with InStudio Architects to transform the remaining 8,720 square feet of the 411 building's 23rd floor into a spec suite of 4,000-to-5,000 square feet, and an 846-square-foot common area that will include a conference room, lounge area, mothers’ room, and small meeting spaces. The hope is that the common space will appeal to both would-be tenants of the 23rd floor or anyone else looking to rent space in the building, Joe Moritz, senior real estate advisor with Colliers, said. The firm is also overhauling the elevator lobby, corridors and restrooms on the 23rd floor.
The new design for the floor was partially driven by Federal Defender’s space selection.
“The way they drew out their preferences gave us a large interior section, which is hard to rent, so we decided to make that a common area. (They) were kind of the catalyst for the floor turning out the way it is. They were able to see the vision for the space,” Moritz said, adding that new amenity space will be open to everyone in the building.
It’s a move, he said, that could help draw in tenants to the spec space and the remaining 3,500 square feet on the 411 building's 23rd floor, since they know they won’t necessarily need space for a conference room or extra meeting spaces.
The approach is something Colliers hopes to replicate on its 19th floor, which is also currently vacant, and other floors, between the 12th and 23rd floors building, which also have a fair amount of vacancy, he said.
Moritz said he expects Federal Defenders and Geneva Capital to move into their spaces sometime in April, with the common amenities space being available to all tenants of the building sometime in May. The spec space should be done sometime in June or July, he said.