Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

See The Future Associated Bank River Center

Plans and renderings, how bank will modernize former Milwaukee Center, inside and out.

By - Feb 27th, 2021 10:02 am
Associated Bank River Center lounge. Rendering by RINKA.

Associated Bank River Center lounge. Rendering by RINKA.

Associated Bank bought the 28-story Milwaukee Center, 111 E. Kilbourn Ave., in 2016 for $60.5 million. Now, the Green Bay-based bank is spending millions more reshaping the building’s common area as part of rebranding the 373,000-square-foot building as the Associated Bank River Center.

The bank has approximately 500 employees in the building, but isn’t the sole tenant. It’s also not the only building in the complex that fills the entire block bordered by E. Kilbourn Ave., E. Wells St. N. Water St. and the Milwaukee River.

The complex houses the Saint Kate The Arts Hotel, the Pabst Theater and The Patty & Jay Baker Theater Complex (home of three venues for The Milwaukee Rep). A parking garage runs underneath the entire block.

In August the company secured city approval to revamp the riverwalk segment that runs alongside the office tower. The improvements include a new walking surface made from brick pavers, an additional exterior lighting system, planters and benches. Changes are also planned for the exterior of the building, the fifth tallest in the state, including a new outdoor balcony on the level above the riverwalk. The new lighting system would be installed under the riverwalk. The balcony, which would include a folding glass wall, will “enable future food and beverage operators to create a continuous indoor-outdoor experience,” says the submission.

Now the bank, with architecture firm RINKA, is working to improve the common spaces that connect the tower with the other buildings. It is also improving the space for those “future food and beverage operators.”

But the City of Milwaukee gets a say in what the bank does on the interior because of the complicated nature by which the buildings were joined into one complex in the 1980s by the real estate firm Trammell Crow. The city holds a lease on the common space as a tool to ensure it is common space.

“The only person that understands all of the pieces is Mick Hatch,” said Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee board member Bill Schwartz, referring to the Foley & Lardner real estate attorney. Schwartz, now with Interstate Partners, is a former Trammell Crow employee.

“It’s a bit of a tangled mess, to use a very technical legal term,” said assistant city attorney Jeremy McKenzie when the RACM board reviewed the proposal on January 21st.

The latest round of changes are centered on a second-level space on the south side of the tower. “This space has been used in the past for circulation and a little bit of overflow from the Stackner Cabaret,” said RINKA principal Chad Griswold, referring to the intimate theater. On the exterior of the building is the rounded space overlooking the river. “We are looking at a new tenant lounge space with food and beverage.”

The space would still be public, said McKenzie.

Griswold showed renderings of how the revamped public space would integrate with a new entryway to the bank’s office space and other changes to the tower. Demolition would take place in the public space with a replacement structure bringing in more natural light. A bar would be constructed, with an outdoor deck overlooking the river. A new 100-seat conference would be created for building tenants. Other improvements to the tower include a new fitness and health center, new tech technology lounge and market and a remodeled lobby — all depicted in renderings as having a mix of wood fixtures and greenery, matching the Associated Bank logo.

The RACM board unanimously endorsed the public space changes, less an abstention from Schwartz because of his prior employer. The Common Council also unanimously endorsed the changes.

Griswold said the changes are expected to be completed this summer.

Current State

Renderings

Exterior Renderings

Exterior Photos

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Related Legislation: File 201283

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