American Family Cancels Downtown Office Plan
Insurance company selling building, saying move to remove work is driving decision.
American Family Insurance is citing the pandemic’s impact on workplace culture and a shift to remote work in announcing its cancelation of a 2019 plan to develop a downtown Milwaukee office for up to 400 employees.
It’s selling the five-story building at 1311-1325 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. that it intended to redevelop.
The Madison-based insurance company paid $9.6 million for the 93,750-square-foot building in December 2019 as part of a joint venture with Van Buren Management. The plans called for adding floors to the top of the structure. American Family announced it was in the market for a Milwaukee office alongside its January 2019 announcement that it would take over the naming rights of Miller Park (now American Family Field).
Wednesday’s press release says the company, which has approximately 13,500 employees, could still lease office space in the future.
Unlike a number of other downtown office deals, including a pending agreement with Fiserv, there never was a city subsidy agreement formally proposed.
The insurance company previously leased office space in Pewaukee for a regional claims office. As of 2019, the office had approximately 300 employees, but by 2021 it was vacant amidst a shift to remote work and sold to Generac.
The building was constructed in 1909 by an ice harvesting company and has had a number of different names and tenants over the ensuing century. Today it’s commonly referred to as the Mandel Graphics building, due to a painted sign on the south facade.
It is currently assessed for $2.3 million. The 0.26-acre parking lot, 1402 N. Vel R. Phillips Ave., that the insurance company acquired as part of buying the building is assessed for $134,400.
The press release says the insurance company explored donating the property to a nonprofit before opting to sell it. Similar to its downtown Madison office, American Family was planning to add a “DreamBank” facility for community events and community engagement in the building.
The insurance company said it remains committed to Milwaukee.
“We continue to partner with key local organizations and Milwaukee-area universities and colleges to support youth and adults with gaining access to opportunities, with an emphasis on closing racial equity gaps while lifting and investing in community assets,” said Leana Nakielski, American Family director of community and social impact in Milwaukee. “We deeply value our partners and remain committed to driving positive societal impact well into the future.”
American Family reports being the country’s 13th largest property/casualty insurance group.
For more on the building, see our 2019 “What’s It Worth?” column.