Michael Horne
Plenty of Horne

NM Demolishing Downtown Buildings

Firm hired by Northwestern Mutual achieved 93% recycling on new tower, but not this time.

By - Mar 3rd, 2016 02:03 pm
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The Vermont is soon to be rubble. Photo by Michael Horne.

The Vermont is soon to be rubble. Photo by Michael Horne.

Although Northwestern Mutual calls itself “The Quiet Company,” the insurance giant is making lot of noise downtown lately. Its headquarters building, now nearing its full height, is a bustle of activity as it rises on the lakefront. There, work goes on at a steady hum.

More audible is the cacophony of sounds that accompany the firm’s demolition of three buildings on the 600 block of E. Mason St. that will comprise part of the site of its proposed 33-story apartment building and parking structure just a block from the new headquarters. The development has an estimated price tag of more than $100 million and will be built on property the company owns through its “Mitchell” affiliates on the block bounded by North Van Buren, North Jackson, East Mason and East Wells streets.

The work is being done by Veit USA, a family-owned specialty contractor based in Minnesota and established in 1928. City demolition permits issued on February 22nd, show the firm, which boasts that it is “educated in the school of hard knockdowns,” will be paid $481,200 for its demolition contract.

Veit’s work on the demolition of the 20-story office building previously on the NM headquarters site was featured in Demolition Magazine in January 2015. The story noted that 93 per cent of the materials in that building were recycled.

Not this time. Recycling on the current project seems to be observed in the breach, with apparently only metals being salvaged, while architectural Bedford Stone panels are being ground to dust.

The buildings have been demolished from the rear toward the street. As of this writing, the corner structure at 604 E. Mason St., once a 1968, 4-story 17,560 square foot office building, is no longer. It had been mostly standing as recently as Friday. NM bought the building on December 17th, 2012 for $1 million. It had a total assessed valuation of $978,000, of which $249,000 was the value of the 6,225 square foot [$40/s.f.]  parcel.

Next up — or rather next down — will be the Vermont, a classic apartment building at 610 E. Mason St. The building was constructed in 1898, and was bought by the NM affiliate on December 3rd, 2005 for $2,125,000, a hefty premium to the property’s total assessed valuation of $851,100, of which $106,300 was the value of its 4,250 square foot [$25/s.f.] parcel.

The Vermont Apartments building was notable for the stone detailing on its Mason Street facade, and the word “VERMONT” on a bas-relief frieze above the door. The four-story building had projecting bays over the street. Wednesday afternoon the bulldozer for the demolition contractor finished up work on the rear end of the building, and put a debris barricade on the street side in a noisy rumble of metal vs. concrete. The fine stone detailing will soon be reduced to rubble, as had been the case with a building at 765 N. Van Buren St. on this block earlier this year.

The last building standing, for now, is 624 E. Mason St., a five-story office building that was the largest of the lot. The 1964 structure was bought by the NM affiliate on October 20th, 2000 for $3,275,000. Its assessment totals $2,644,000, of which $576,000 is attributable to the 14,400 square foot [$40/s.f.] parcel.

The new building, with its eight floors of parking, will be designed “with environmental sustainability in mind,” Northwestern Mutual promises. This hopefully will make it easier for future generations to recycle the structure rather than toss it into a landfill when it comes time to demolish it.

The new building that will result from this flurry of demolition is expected to open in Spring, 2018.

Demolition in Progress

Buildings Being Demolished

Preliminary Renderings of the Apartment Tower

2 thoughts on “Plenty of Horne: NM Demolishing Downtown Buildings”

  1. Gary says:

    It’ll be fun to see just how “preliminary” those apartment tower renderings really are: the parking section facade borrows from cruise ship design, reminds me of the Costa Concordia. I wonder if there will be a tunnel for NML employee residents to walk to work? That would be a nice perk and add to the mystique of NML employment.

  2. Dudemeister says:

    There is no way that five-story was built in 1964. Perhaps it was renovated, though . . .

    Cannot wait to see the new renderings!

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