Northwestern Mutual opts for new plan

By Dwayne Butler - Freeman Staff

Dec. 19, 2014

MILWAUKEE — Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. announced it intends to build a mixed-use real estate development, including a parking structure, immediately west of its downtown Milwaukee campus.

The Thursday announcement came hours after the Milwaukee County Board voted 9-8 against buying O’Donnell Park, including its parking structure. Earlier this year, Northwestern Mutual proposed paying $14 million, the appraised value of the parking structure, and would receive a $1.3 million credit for needed maintenance on the structure. Had the measure passed, the county would likely have retired $7 million of the park’s debt and have more than $5 million left to improve parks across the county.

“Although we are disappointed by the County Board’s decision, we want to acknowledge the outpouring of support we have received from all corners of the community, both today and throughout the debate,” said Sandy Botcher, vice present at Northwestern Mutual and head of the company’s downtown campus expansion project.

“With this missed opportunity, it is now incumbent on the County Board to find solutions to the long-overdue deferred maintenance issues at O’Donnell,” Botcher added in a statement. “The board needs to make good on this morning’s dialogue about better options for O’Donnell Park, including how to pay for the millions of dollars in deferred maintenance.”

Botcher said Northwestern Mutual will begin work with Mayor Tom Barrett and the Milwaukee Common Council on plans for the new development, adjacent to the west side of its downtown campus.

The preliminary plans include up to 1,000 parking spaces for its employees, but also incorporate residential and possible retail components, a company release said.

The company owns nearly all of the property on the block bounded by North Van Buren, North Jackson, East Mason and East Wells streets. It also owns the block that surrounds the 611 E. Wisconsin building on the southwest corner of Van Buren Street and Wisconsin Avenue.

At this time, Botcher said, the company has no further specifics on scope, cost, location or design of the development.