Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Associated Bank, Quarles Write Their Names on Skyline

Associated's new signage costs more than $100,000, the Quarles signs cost $250,000.

By - Jan 3rd, 2023 10:14 am
Associated Bank and Quarles signs. Photos by Jeramey Jannene.

Associated Bank and Quarles signs. Photos by Jeramey Jannene.

Next time you’re Downtown, look up. Two firms have rewritten their names on the skyline.

Associated Bank has installed its name on its namesake office tower, the Associated Bank River Center. The Green Bay-based bank acquired the 28-story office tower in 2016, but spent years planning and renovating the interior before relocating its regional office from the 330 Kilbourn complex. The move, completed last year, included the removal of bank signage at its former office.

The 30-story 411 East Wisconsin Center also has new signage. Long-time tenant Quarles & Brady had its signage removed in November, only to unveil a new brand (“Quarles”) and signage in December. The law firm has been in the building since 1986.

Both company’s signs were hoisted by helicopters in recent weeks.

Associated Bank

Associated’s new signs cover three sides of its new Milwaukee office near the tower’s 16th floor. The signage is located atop the wider base portion of the tower. The narrower portion that rises to 28 floors doesn’t present an obvious flat surface that could accommodate a 14-letter-long bank name.

Owing to the rectangular form of the structure to which they’re attached, the three signs are not identical. A larger, east-facing sign measures five-and-a-half feet tall and nearly 65-feet wide. The north and south-facing signs are approximately 4.5 feet by 53 feet.

Two approximately 26-foot-tall, vertical signs are also affixed to the northwest corner of the tower near the fifth floor. Their style mimics that of the sign on the attached Saint Kate The Arts Hotel. Several new Associated signs welcome visitors near ground level.

Each of the signs features white, backlit letters and Associated’s green tree-shaped logo.

Wausau-based Graphic House, Inc. led the sign project. Permits indicate the project cost in excess of $100,000.

Associated acquired the tower, part of the larger Milwaukee Center complex, for $60.5 million in 2016. It has since spent several million dollars renovating the structure.

Working with design firm RINKA, Associated has been renovating many of the common spaces in the building as well its private office space. In partnership with F Street Hospitality, Associated recently announced plans for Vault, a bar overlooking the Milwaukee River, and new taco, sandwich and coffee shops at a central marketplace. A full-service bank branch is planned for the building, replacing one that closed several years before Associated acquired the property. A dedicated office space, known as the Center for Professional Development, opened earlier this year in partnership with ALIVE Milwaukee and is focused on supporting nonprofits. Construction work on various components, including rehabilitating the adjacent riverwalk, is nearing completion.

More new signs are coming to the complex. The south entrance to the mixed-use complex will be overhauled as part of a larger project undertaken by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. Associated Bank purchased the naming rights to that $75 million project as part of a 20-year, $10 million agreement that will see the rehabilitated complex rebranded the Associated Bank Theater Center. To the east, the Pabst Theater will get a new blade sign.

Colliers International is handling the leasing for portions of the 370,000-square-foot building, 107-111 E. Kilbourn Ave., not occupied by the bank. The larger complex, which includes the hotel, theater complex and underground parking structure, was completed in the 1980s.


The Quarles rebranding project included two rooftop signs. Each of the signs is nine-feet tall and approximately 43-feet wide according to a sign permit. The letters are illuminated by LED lights, with the letters appearing white at night. The new letters are taller than those they replaced, though the width of the sign shrunk in accordance with shortening the firm’s name. The previous signs were seven-feet tall and approximately 56.5-feet wide.

The Quarles sign project was led by Poblocki Sign Company. Building permits indicate the effort, which also included a new sign at ground level, cost more than $250,000. The letters, both after they were removed and before they were installed, provided an unusual sight for people traversing N. Milwaukee St. or E. Clybourn St. in the past two months. Each sign spent several days sitting in the surface parking lot at 322 E. Clybourn St.

The newly-renamed, 130-year-old law firm has a team of approximately 480 attorneys spread across 10 offices. The new name also comes with a new website.

“Quarles’ deep commitment to our clients, our people and our communities has always been, and will continue to be, how we define ourself as a firm,” said managing partner and executive committee chair Michael Aldana in a December press release. “We do best when those we serve do best – that’s our goal and our purpose. Our new branding and website reflect and reinforce those commitments and help position the firm for continued success into the future.”

Earlier last year, the law firm announced it was exploring subleasing at least two of the floors it leases at the building, 411 E. Wisconsin Ave., as a result of a shift to more remote work. It previously reported approximately 340 employees were based in the office.

Illinois-based Midwest Helicopter Airways completed the lifts for both Associated and Quarles. The firm has been involved in many other projects recently, including replacing the lighting at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

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2 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Associated Bank, Quarles Write Their Names on Skyline”

  1. Polaris says:

    I’d love to check out the city’s signage regulations. After all, signage placement like this leverages not only the asset of the property, but also the asset of being a part of downtown’s skyline and the visual space that extends far beyond the property, often several hundred yards if not a mile or more from the sign. Of course, companies with building signage may get a bump from RNC Convention coverage and the panoramic shots they usually broadcast. Also, Bucks broadcasts, etc.

    Nothing wrong with these signs. I appreciate their attractiveness, and it doesn’t appear that they have overdone it. The Associated Bank project has done about as much as is appropriate, I believe. Quarles is attractive and simple. Although I’m surprised that it is on the roof and affixed to the top of the exterior wall. (Side note: The vonBriesen signage midway up the building is just plain weird. Leads me to believe that stricter city standards are needed. Also, I have never liked the US Bank signage at the top of the old First Wisconsin Center. Looks cheap.)

    There is always a risk of clutter. I remember, years ago, San Francisco was super aware of the asset a company got by placing its name at the top of a downtown building. So, it limited such signs only to companies headquartered or founded in SF. (Of course, SF is in a different league for this, but Milwaukee’s skyline is also an asset.)

    Lastly, I have to say how disappointed I was on a recent visit that some businesses downtown have placed big banners in their windows at street level. The worst offender during my quick walk and drive through was a dental business in the Iron Block building that had huge signed for Invisalign and other services. Other’s exist, too. If the city is committed to activating the street level, it needs to do something about this. Covered windows, even of those of active businesses, deaden the streetscape, as do other window treatments that don’t allow pedestrians to see into the interior space.

    That’s it! 🙂

  2. B says:

    Thanks for covering stuff like this. I had noticed the new signs over the past week or two. The Quarles sign looks much better than the old one and seems much easier to read.

    -Polaris – that tidbit about SF limiting signs to companies headquartered there is interesting!

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