Northwestern Mutual Could Demolish a City Block
Will entire city block be used to build 1,000 car parking garage? And will The Couture dispute ever get settled?
On Friday, Sean Ryan, of the Business Journal, reported that Northwestern Mutual intends to demolish two three-story buildings, located at 765 and 770 [sic 771] N. Van Buren St. John Gardner, NM spokesman told Ryan, “Our long-term plan for the property has yet to be determined.”
In December 2014, the Milwaukee County Board rejected NM’s $14 million offer to purchase O’Donnell Garage, which the company had intended to use to provide parking for their $450 million, 32-story downtown Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons office development. Immediately following the board’s action, NM announced their intention to “build a mixed use real estate development immediately west of its downtown Milwaukee campus.” This mixed-use building would include 1,000 parking spaces for its employees, as well as residential and possible retail components.
In February 2014, NM demolished a building at 795 N. Van Buren St., just down the block from the two additional buildings NM intends to demolish. NM also owns the buildings at 604 E. Mason St., 624 E. Mason St, and The Vermont Apartments at 610 E. Mason St. All these properties are on the same city block.
The company continues to say the plans for these properties are yet to be determined, so I can only speculate, but all signs point to NM demolishing much of this city block in East Town and replacing it with a 1,000 car garage, that could potentially have additional uses.
765 and 771 N. Van Buren St.
Inching Closer to Arena Site Announcement
On Wednesday, the latest big news on the proposed NBA arena broke. The Milwaukee Bucks, we learned, hired the team of architecture and engineering firms that will design the new arena. The team will be led by Populous, a global architecture firm with experience designing arenas, and includes HNTB and Eppstein Uhen Architects. According to Rich Kirchen, of the Business Journal, the design team of Kahler Slater, Graef, Continuum Architects + Planners, with AECOM, of Los Angeles as the lead, was the runner-up to the Populous led team.
According to Kirchen, Gov. Scott Walker’s budget includes “$2.8 million in state funds to cover the first year of debt payments on his proposal for issuing $220 million of state bonds to help pay for a new arena in downtown Milwaukee.”
But just in case state funding for the arena falls through, Bucks co-owner Wes Edens will survive. On Thursday, Kirchen let Milwaukeeans know that Edens’ firm, Fortress Investment Group LLC, is doing great. He wrote, “it posted record fourth-quarter earnings and achieved an all-time high for assets under management.” Better yet, Kirchen reported that Edens put $150 million of his own money into Fortress Investment Group’s latest permanent-capital pool, Fortress Equity Partners LLC., a startup fund. Good to know.
Latest Populous Projects
The Couture, A Long and Winding Road
In early February 2015, the Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to hear Milwaukee County’s request to settle a dispute between the county and Preserve Our Parks over the proposed sale of the Downtown Transit Center to developer Rick Barrett for the development of the $122 million, 44-story Couture residential skyscraper. Preserve Our Parks argues the development is illegal because a portion of the site was once part of Lake Michigan and doing so would violate the state’s Public Trust Doctrine. Whereas the county argues the area can be developed given state actions going back to 1913 that defined the lake border as being east of the transit center site, and which were reaffirmed by a state law passed last year.
According to Ryan, the county and city took the issue to Circuit Court, starting a legal process that will likely wind its way back to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
In Other News…
–Barb Zaferos, of the Business Journal, reported that Joe Lak Jr. has risen way up from his days as an intern at Colliers International | Wisconsin Brokerage Division, having recently been named partner in Colliers.
-Multi-Housing News covered some mixed signals for the multifamily market in 2015. On Tuesday, Dees Stribling, contributing editor of Multi-Housing News, reported a survey of commercial and multifamily mortgage firms conducted by the 2015 Mortgage Banker Association indicates that, “every major lender group is expected to increase originations this year,” meaning they will be see an increase in the number of loans to developers.
Later in the week, Stribling reported that, according to the Engineering News-Record, “total construction costs for the 12 months ending in February 2015 were up 2.9 percent.” Stribling then added this caution: “Not exactly a raging monster, but ahead of the broader rate of inflation.” Translation: moderate good news on the development front.