Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Milwaukee’s 10 Most Valuable Properties

Some may surprise you. All will make you feel better about your own your property tax bill.

By - Jan 5th, 2021 05:54 pm

What’s the most valuable building in Milwaukee? According to Assessor’s Office, it’s an office building at the east end of Wisconsin Avenue.But not all of the city’s most valuable buildings are office towers. The list includes a mix of office buildings, apartment complexes and a hotel.

The buildings on the list all have one thing in common: a view of water. Seven of the 10 have a view of Lake Michigan and two are directly on the Milwaukee River. Only two buildings on the list are located west of the Milwaukee River.

Values are based on 2020 assessment figures that reflect the value of the property on January 1st, 2020. In the case of a handful of properties, they also reflect the value after appeals. 2021 values are scheduled to be released in April.

Buildings listed include only taxable properties with a single owner. Excluded from the list are condominium projects with many owners. At least four such developments are assessed for more than the 10th ranked building on this list. We’ll cover those buildings, and their values relative to entire aldermanic districts, later this week.

10. Park Lafayette Towers

2036 N. Prospect Ave. – $64.8 million

One of the Park Lafayette towers. Photo by Dave Reid.

One of the Park Lafayette towers. Photo by Dave Reid.

Following a Great Recession bankruptcy, the 280-unit, two-tower complex was converted from condominiums to apartments by the Mandel Group. The apartment portion is assessed at $61 million while the parking garage is assessed for $3.8 million. Construction began in 2007 according to city records. See inside.

2020 property tax bill: $1.7 million

9. ManpowerGroup Headquarters

201-229 W. Cherry St. – $66.7 million

Manpower Headquarters. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Manpower Headquarters. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Another 2007 building, the ManpowerGroup headquarters overlooking the Milwaukee River is the shortest building on this list. The four-story, 280-square-foot building sits on the edge of Schlitz Park development. The property sold in 2017 for $66.5 million, with a reported 900 employees working in the building at the time.

2020 property tax bill: $1.9 million

8. 100 East Wisconsin

100 E. Wisconsin Ave. – $73.7 million

100 East Wisconsin tower in 2007. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

100 East Wisconsin tower in 2007. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The 35-story 100 East building will be an interesting property to watch in the coming years. The building lost its highest-profile tenant in 2020, as law firm Michael Best & Friedrich relocated to BMO Tower, but that move came after the assessment was issued. In 2016 it sold for $78 million. Originally constructed in 1989.

2020 property tax bill: $2.1 million

7. BMO Tower

790 N. Water St. – $80 million

BMO Tower at 790 N. Water St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

BMO Tower at 790 N. Water St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The newest building on this list, the 25-story BMO Tower opened shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in Milwaukee. BMO Harris Bank tapped Irgens Partners to develop new office space for the building, with the bank selling Irgens its former home in the former M&I Bank Building and leasing space in the new building. Michael Best & Friedrich leases space at the top of the building, while BMO fills much of the middle of the building and operates a flagship bank branch on the first floor. Learn more.

2020 property tax bill: $2.2 million

6. 7Seventy7

777 N. Van Buren St. – $87.4 million

7Seventy7 Apartments. Photos by Jeramey Jannene.

7Seventy7 Apartments. Photos by Jeramey Jannene.

The highest-ranking apartment building on the list, 7Seventy7, is also one of the city’s newest. The apartments alone are assessed at $74.9 million, but the parking garage and retail space boosts the assessed value to $87.4 million. Developed by Northwestern Mutual as an investment property, the parking garage also provides parking for the insurance company’s office headquarters. Completed in 2018, the 35-story tower has 310 apartments and over 1,000 parking stalls. See inside.

2020 property tax bill: $2.3 million

5. 833 East

833 E. Michigan St. – $90.5 million

833 E. Michigan St. Photo by Mariiana Tzotcheva.

833 E. Michigan St. Photo by Mariiana Tzotcheva.This is Irgens Partners’ second entry on the list. The 18-story office tower was built atop a one-story garage that serviced the US Bank Center (number two on the list). The building opened in 2016, with anchor tenant Godfrey & Kahn occupying the top floors. The law firm’s relocation set off a sequence of moves that led to Irgens landing the deal to build BMO Tower. See inside.

2020 property tax bill – $2.5 million

4. Potawatomi Hotel

1611 W. Canal St. – $97.2 million

Potawatomi Hotel and Casino. Photo courtesy of Potawatomi Hotel & Casino.

Potawatomi Hotel and Casino. Photo courtesy of Potawatomi Hotel & Casino.

Commercial assessments in Wisconsin rely on rental income and comparable properties, and what’s a comparable property to a casino? Assessment Commissioner Steve Miner doesn’t have to answer that question. The assessment and tax bill only includes the 500-room hotel; the gaming complex is separate. Since opening the second hotel tower in 2019, Forest County Potawatomi saw the hotel’s assessed value jump from $59.5 million to $97.2 million, including $16 million in the last year alone. See inside.

The casino’s gaming complex is tax exempt under state law. Forest County Potawatomi makes a payment in lieu of taxes to the city under its gaming compact. The 2021 Milwaukee budget estimates the payment at $5.75 million.

2020 property tax bill: $2.5 million

3. 411 East Wisconsin Center

411 E. Wisconsin Ave. – $120.3 million

411 Building. Photo by Mariiana Tzotcheva

411 Building. Photo by Mariiana Tzotcheva

Likely the most overlooked building on this list. The 30-story 411 East Wisconsin Center has 693,126 square feet of space according to city records, but lacks a flashy anchor tenant. A rooftop sign for law firm Quarles & Brady was added in recent years.

Its value has surged in recent years, following a $74.3 million acquisition by Riverview Realty Partners in 2014 and subsequent $17.3 million modernization. Illinois-based Middleton Partners acquired the building in 2017 for $124.6 million. The occupancy rate at the time of the last sale was reported at 89 percent. The assessment includes the parking garage located across E. Michigan St.

2020 property tax bill: $3.3 million

2. US Bank Center

777 E. Wisconsin Ave. – $173.3 million

US Bank Center. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

US Bank Center. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Wisconsin’s tallest building was number one on this list for decades before being supplanted by its new neighbor. But the US Bank Center is still worth millions, even if it’s now below its 2006 assessment of $174.7 million. Built in 1971, city records say it contains 1.3 million square feet of space. US Bank continues to own the building, but law firm Foley & Lardner occupies the top floors.

2020 property tax bill: $4.8 million

1. Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons

800 E. Wisconsin Ave. – $301 million

Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons

Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons

At 32 stories and 1.1-million square feet, it’s both the biggest single-tenant building and most valuable building on this list. And that excludes Northwestern Mutual’s historic headquarters next door, a 322,007-square-foot pile assessed for $24.3 million or its $52.5 million, 542,005-square-foot North Building built across E. Mason St. in 1989. You could even tack another $10 million onto its value if you considered that the parking garage in 7Seventy7 was built to support the parking-free new tower.

The 2017 tower’s location at the east end of Wisconsin Avenue ensures it’s visible from virtually any spot Downtown. But much of the massive property tax bill currently goes to pay off the debt associated with a tax incremental financing district used to create the project. The district includes $18 million the city harvested for nearby public improvements including repaving streets. The TIF district is scheduled to be paid off in 2028. See inside.

2020 property tax bill: $8.4 million

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits, all detailed here.

6 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Milwaukee’s 10 Most Valuable Properties”

  1. B says:

    Thanks for sharing this article. 411 E Wisconsin looks . . . interesting compared to most of the rest of the list.

    Are tax exempt properties assessed? It would be interested to see the most valuable (private) tax exempt buildings (i.e. not the courthouse but St. Johns on the Lake). I wasn’t pleased to read that St. Johns on the lake is tearing down a tax paying office building in a dense area for a tax exempt(?) parking lot. That is the wrong direction to go.

  2. Neal Brenard says:

    Only $31 million tax revenue from these 10 properties? Sounds low to me. (And do they actually pay those amounts or is a lot of it erased by their situation in TIFs?)

  3. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @Neal – A TIF district never reduces an owner’s property tax bill, it only affects where the money goes on the public side. The 833 building is in an active TIF as well, with funding going for the streetcar lakefront line. Irgens did not receive any cash as part of the TIF.

  4. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @B – There are limited records on assessments for exempt properties. They are generally not reliable for use in comparisons.

  5. TransitRider says:

    Jeramey, does a TIF affect all taxing authorities or only just some?

    For example, the City created a TIF for the 833 building, but is the County tax affected? Does all of the County tax paid go to the County or is some syphoned off to the TIF? And what about MPS property taxes when the City creates a TIF?

  6. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @TransitRider – It affects all property taxing entities. There is a joint commission of made up of each entity that votes on every proposed TIF. In the case of 833, there was a base assessed value that continues to be taxed and flow to the entities as it did before. The incremental tax revenue pays off any TIF expenses before going back to all of the entities, but the entities do have the ability to add some of the value of new construction to their lexy and, as I understand it, effectively raise the “lost” revenue from other property tax payers.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us