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BMO Tower development begins.

After the BMO Tower is completed next year in downtown Milwaukee, it will help spur redevelopment of a neighboring building into a possible hotel, apartments and other uses. The 25-story structure's groundbreaking ceremony was held 11 months after the project was announced by BMO Harris Bank and the development firm Irgens.

The demolition of the bank's seven-level parking structure, at the southeast corner of N. Water and E. Wells streets, has begun and once cleared, construction will start. It will be anchored by BMO Harris Bank's Wisconsin headquarters, leasing 123,000 square feet, which will move from its neighboring 20-story building at 770 N. Water St.

The other announced tenant in the tower is the law firm of Michael Best & Friedrich, which is leasing 59,000 square feet and will move from the 100 East Tower, 100 E. Wisconsin Ave. Irgens and its leasing agent, Colliers International, are seeking tenants for the remaining 187,000 square feet. Irgens will complete the $132.6 million BMO Tower in December 2019. After the bank moves from its current headquarters, Irgens will begin redeveloping that 49-year-old building. The firm bought it from BMO Harris in August for $7.1 million.

Remodeling will be extensive, with much of the interior to be demolished, said Mark Irgens, the firm's chief executive officer. "It'll be a completely brand new building on the inside," he said. Irgens also plans to replace the windows with larger windows that will lighten the building's appearance. Much of the building likely will be transformed for uses other than offices, Irgens said. Some concepts include a 100-room hotel, combined with "a couple hundred" apartments with rents aimed at middle-income people who work in the downtown area, plus a street-level restaurant and retail space, he said. Irgens doesn't develop apartments or hotels, so the firm would seek partners for those uses. "We're in the process of trying to identify those folks."

The redeveloped building's tenants will use a parking structure that Irgens plans to develop on a lot at N. Broadway, south of the BMO Tower.