Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Former Boston Store Is Being Transformed

See inside the HUB640 project in Downtown. Plus: Lobbying for a Target store.

By - May 10th, 2021 04:35 pm
HUB640. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

HUB640. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Bon-Ton was relegated to the dust bin of corporate history in 2018, but the department store chain left behind a lot of real estate.

While shopping mall owners work to repurpose the windowless boxes once inhabited by department stores, downtown Milwaukee was left with something entirely different: an empty office building at 640 N. Vel R. Phillips Ave.

Chicago-based North Wells Capital acquired Bon-Ton’s headquarters in 2017, with the retailer’s flagship Boston Store department store on the first two levels. The real estate firm was working with Bon-Ton to consolidate its office and retail footprint in the building when the company filed for bankruptcy. Prior owner WisPark had already worked with the Mandel Group to convert the top of the eight-story building to apartments.

The liquidation of the retailer, which employed approximately 750 people in the building as of 2017, sped up a redevelopment plan. The building was rebranded HUB640 and gutted.

Engberg Anderson Architects was tasked with designing new spaces for a multi-tenant complex, including a new lobby, conference center, rooftop deck and fitness center. The tenant rooftop deck atop a two-story parking garage and loading dock structure is located on the east side of the building. Much of that buildout has now been completed by contractor Kelly Construction & Design.

North Shore Healthcare signed a 10-year lease in April 2020 to move its headquarters, and 55 employees, from Glendale to 23,000 square feet of space on the building’s second floor.

North Wells announced Monday that Founders 3 was hired to market the building to prospective tenants. A total of 205,000 square feet of office space is available for lease on floors two through five according to a press release. That includes all of floors three, four and five.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Founders 3 to build upon the leasing momentum already present at HUB640,” said Tony Lindsay, principal at North Wells. “The Founders leasing team brings new ideas to this transformative project allowing us to show off our recently completed renovations, as we prepare to announce additional new improvements.”

Brokers John Davis and Ned Purtell are assigned to the property.

“Founders 3 continues to believe in the strength of the Milwaukee office market — particularly west of the river,” said Founders 3 president Kevin Armstrong. “We are excited to partner with North Wells Capital to market HUB640 to office tenants. The energy of Westown is palpable, and we’re confident that office tenants will continue to be drawn to quality adaptive re-use product such as HUB640.”

The former Boston Store Building is actually two attached structures. A five-story building, dating back to 1895, is located at the intersection of N. Vel R. Phillips Ave. and W. Wisconsin Ave. An eight-story structure is located to the south, fronting W. Michigan St. and N. Vel R. Phillips Ave.

The complex is directly attached to The Avenue, a redevelopment of the former Shops of Grand Avenue mall into office space, apartments and a new food hall, 3rd Street Market Hall. A skywalk connection over N. Vel R. Phillips Ave. connects the building to a parking structure.

The building is also attached, via skywalk over W. Wisconsin Ave., to The Blue, a 14-story, 578,000-square-foot office building receiving its own multi-million-dollar overhaul.

The amount of available office space in the area declined sharply last week when the Milwaukee Common Council approved a subsidy agreement to bring Milwaukee Tool to an empty, 350,000-square-foot office building two blocks southwest of HUB640. Other buildings in the area have become housing in recent years, including The Buckler and 735 West.

The East-West bus rapid transit line will stop across the street from the building. An extension of The Hop is planned to run alongside the building.


Aerial Photos

Former Boston Store

A Downtown Target?

While office users are targeted for HUB640’s upper floors, the first floor is currently planned to be maintained as commercial space.

Area business improvement district Westown Association and HUB640 have identified the ideal tenant: Target.

As part of Westown’s monthly newsletter, the March edition included instructions on how to call Target and suggest a downtown Milwaukee store. The flyer includes three reasons it’s a great location: “there have been a lot of new apartment buildings added to the neighborhood, this location is just west of the Central Business District and this location is just east of Marquette University.” Call 1-800-440-0680 to make the case, press one for store experience and one again for an operator.

A listing brochure says the floor contains 66,125 square feet of leasable space.

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One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Former Boston Store Is Being Transformed”

  1. Dan Hulbert says:

    This would be a great asset to downtown. The urban Target in Minneapolis is an example. Does anyone know what has happened to the proposed Target at Bayshore? It appears there is no work being done on the project A Target on this side of town would be huge.

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