Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Lurie Buying Mostly Empty Downtown Building

Developer tackling last large empty downtown office building, on 5th and Michigan. Could add hotel.

By - Nov 12th, 2019 06:21 pm
501 Building. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

501 Building. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Developer Scott Lurie has an agreement to purchase the mostly empty Assurant Health office building at 501 W. Michigan St.

The developer, head of F Street Group, announced the news at Westown Association’s annual meeting on Tuesday evening. He could convert part of the building into a hotel.

The five-story building, which includes an attached parking garage with more than 800 stalls, is the last mostly vacant, large office complex in Westown. It includes approximately 370,000 square feet of space according to city records. The building is currently assessed for $17.1 million.

An early 2019 listing for the property indicates that over 180,000 square feet of space could be added to the complex. The listing also says the property has been well maintained.

According to city records, the building was built on a 2.9-acre site in 1978. An 11-story sister building, located to the east, was vacant since Blue Cross Blue Shield left downtown in 2006. It was redeveloped into the 207-unit The Buckler apartment building in 2016. A tunnel connecting the two buildings was filled in as part of the apartment building’s construction.

Lurie’s purchase reflects a surge of investment in Westown, including the transformation of the Grand Avenue Mall into The Avenue, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra‘s redevelopment of the Grand Warner Theatre, the redevelopment of 310W (formerly The Blue building), Hub640 redevelopment of the former Boston Store building, the expansion of the convention center and a number of nearby apartment projects.

Last year Lurie completed the redevelopment of a former Pabst warehouse in the northwest corner of Downtown into The 42 mixed-use complex. The 170,000-square-foot building is now home to Milwaukee Brewing Company, Glass + Griddle restaurant and a host of office users. The office space is now full with the October announcement that Badger Mutual Insurance will relocate to the building.

Assurant shuttered its health insurance business in 2016, resulting in approximately 1,200 job losses in downtown Milwaukee and the emptying almost all of the building Lurie will now acquire. The company’s parent has approximately 30 employees in the complex.

The state, in 2018, considered Lurie’s building as one of two sites for a replacement for the 55-year-old state office building at 819 N. 6th St. That project was put on hold as a result of the 2019-2021 state budget debate, but the administration of Governor Tony Evers is now advancing plans that appears to have the state pick a vacant site at N. 27th St. and W. Wisconsin Ave. instead of the Assurant building. Lurie could still bid on the project.


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3 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Lurie Buying Mostly Empty Downtown Building”

  1. TransitRider says:

    This building occupies the site of the old North Shore Railroad station, which served passenger trains until January 1963. Once every hour, an electric train would leave this station and head south over the 6th Street Viaduct on its way to downtown Chicago.

    On the way to Chicago, the trains had a stop at the Great Lakes Naval Station in Illinois, and many sailors used the trains to visit Milwaukee. Especially on weekends, downtown Milwaukee was awash with sailors in uniform.

  2. Nicholas La Joie says:

    Transit Rider: yes, thank you for that post. This is also where TMER&L started to construct a underground tunnels for a very unfortunately failed transit subway line that ended up being stalled and then covered over years later.
    If only they had started a little sooner, Milwaukee might have itself a subway tunnel yet today (although I am curious as to what remnants might be around in the basements and sub basements of this and other nearby buildings…

  3. weitenma83 says:

    This article doesn’t mention that the developer is thinking of adding stories to the building tor a hotel. I spent the last 22 years of my working career at Assurant Health and its predecessors, the last 11 in this building. When Blue Cross built this building it was structurally designed to accommodate 4 additional floors in case growth would require more space.

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