Jeramey Jannene
Plats and Parcels

Irgens Seeking To Designate Former M&I Building As Historic

Plus: A recap of the week's real estate news.

By - Apr 4th, 2021 11:50 pm
770 North in July 2020. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

770 North in July 2020. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Real estate development firm Irgens is seeking to add the M&I Bank Building, 770 N. Water St., to the National Register of Historic Places.

Built in 1968, the 21-story building was the headquarters for Marshall & Ilsley Bank before the bank was acquired in 2011 by BMO Harris Bank. In 2016 BMO announced that Irgens would build a new tower for the bank on the site of the former M&I parking structure. Irgens completed that building, the 25-story BMO Tower, in 2020. The two buildings are now attached at the base through a connector building.

The listing would grant the company access to state and federal historic preservation credits that could finance up to 40% of applicable project costs if the work is done in accordance with standards set by the National Park Service and state historic preservation officer. The submission argues that the building is a “fine example” of a post-World War II, modern bank.

“The first floor and basement level banking spaces all exhibit excellent architectural integrity, with only minor changes made since the building’s completion in 1968,” says the listing application. “The first floor was built to house M&I’s main branch and features an open lobby with antique walnut travertine marble and walnut-paneled walls, and aurora fiorita marble floors. The basement level of the bank lobby contains the original vault and safe deposit rooms.”

Irgens intends to redevelop the steel-frame structure as a Class A office building. It has already cleaned the concrete-clad columns that define its exterior and replaced the windows. In 2020 it installed a green roof. The firm previously considered other uses including apartments and a hotel, before settling on maintaining the building as a place for business.

The building was designed by Grassold, Johnson, Wagner & Isley  in the International Style.

The third floor held a corporate cafeteria, the sixth floor the executive office suite and the eighth floor the original computer processing center. The other floors contain office space, a small portion of which was leased to other tenants.

The 20th floor, used primarily for building mechanical systems, is a double-height floor with a mezzanine, leading to confusion over how many floors the building has. The application calls it a 21-story building. The City of Milwaukee Assessor’s Office counts it as 20 stories.

In 1976, the first-ever “Take Your Money Everywhere” (TYME) machine was installed in the building. The service, now ubiquitous through ATMs, was unique at the time as a partnership between three banks (M&I, First Wisconsin, Marine Bank and Midland Bank) allowed customers to retrieve their money from any of the machines, regardless of which bank they were at.

A drive-through facility, with then-novel pneumatic tubes and closed-circuit television, was located in the parking structure. That structure, designed in the same style as the bank, was demolished in 2018.

M&I was acquired by BMO as a result of the Milwaukee bank’s challenges resulting from the Great Recession.

Irgens rebranded the building as 770 North as part of its redevelopment of the campus. Its listing website promotes the 305,600 square feet of office space that is available for lease.

But the designation and subsequent use of preservation tax credits could impede at least one thing shown in conceptual renderings for the building’s redevelopment. It is with rare exceptions that large signage for new tenants could be added to the facade of a credits-supported project. The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra was able to rebrand the Grand Warner Theater as the Bradley Symphony Center by casting the new name into the same design as the original marquee (and creating a replica). The M&I building, adorned with a rooftop wrap in recent years, did not have a rooftop sign when completed and it’s unlikely those controlling the credits would allow a new one.

The City of Milwaukee’s Historic Preservation Commission will review the application at an upcoming meeting. The city commission provides a recommendation to the National Park Service on designation. The building has no local historic designation.

2019 Redevelopment Renderings


Weekly Recap

Malt House Lofts Prepares To Open

It’s been a long time coming, but one of the largest remaining Pabst Brewing buildings is set to open as apartments in the coming months.

Originally approved in 2014, the conversion of what was known as Building 25 (the malt house) and attached Building 24 (the malt elevator) into apartments was one of the earlier projects approved in the redevelopment of the former brewery. It’s going to be one of the last to be completed after a lengthy work stoppage, change in general contractor and reconfiguration of the development team delayed its completion.

June is now the target month for the opening of the Malt House Lofts, 1009 W. Juneau Ave. The 118-unit market-rate apartment complex anchors the southern edge of the iconic Pabst sign visible from well outside The Brewery District.

Read the full article

TIF District Will Support Central City Housing

An overperforming tax incremental financing (TIF) district on the city’s far North Side will be used to bail out three struggling districts created to support single-family housing projects.

The city created what it calls “TID 52” in 2003 to support the relocation of chemical conglomerate Sigma-Aldrich Corporation (now MilliporeSigma) to a 66-acre site at 6000 N. Teutonia Ave.

Now $312,540 in surplus 2021 property tax revenue from that district, as regulated under state law, will be donated to shore up three TIF districts covering Josey HeightsWalnut Circle and Metcalfe Park.

Read the full article

Milwaukee Tool Could Bring 2,000 Jobs Downtown

Milwaukee Tool could bring up to 2,000 jobs to downtown Milwaukee according to a public notice released Wednesday by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee.

The city is proposing a $12.1 million grant to support the Brookfield-based company’s move of at least 1,210 employees to HQ501, the former Assurant Health office building at 501 W. Michigan St. The city would provide an additional $7.9 million if the company adds an additional 790 employees.

The company, officially Milwaukee Electric Tool Co., has grown quickly in the past decade. It reported 300 employees at its headquarters in 2011, but multiple expansions have added over 300,000 square feet of space and brought the total employment count to more than 1,400 as of late 2019.

Read the full article

Deer District Hotel Secures First Approval

The Milwaukee Bucks and development partner North Central Group got a thumbs up for their proposed Marriott Autograph Collection hotel from the City Plan Commission on Monday afternoon.

North Central Group (NCG) is proposing to build a nine-story, 205-room hotel on a vacant lot owned by the team across from Fiserv Forum at 420 W. Juneau Ave. As part of the arena financing plan, all development proposals in what is now known as the Deer District must receive special zoning approval.

The commission unanimously endorsed the proposal, sending it to the Common Council with a recommendation for approval.

Read the full article

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