Foxconn Technology Group is coming to downtown Milwaukee with plans to buy a seven-story office building — giving it space for potentially hundreds of employees.
Foxconn has agreed to buy the 132,800-square-foot building at 611 E. Wisconsin Ave. from Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. for an undisclosed price, it was announced Monday.
A Foxconn spokeswoman didn't respond to questions about the company's plans — although more information is likely coming Tuesday.
The building will apparently be Foxconn's North American headquarters, one source said. Along with its future Mount Pleasant factories, the company also has a small research operation in Harrisburg, Pa.
"They're obviously going to be widening their footprint in this country," said the source, who asked not to be identified.
Foxconn estimates it will have 870 employees in "business support functions" in southeastern Wisconsin by the end of 2022, according to a Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. analysis.
Such jobs are often in corporate offices and can include such roles as finance, Information technology, human resources and marketing.
The downtown Milwaukee property includes a 2-acre site, with a large parking lot, bordered by Wisconsin Ave., Michigan St., Jackson St. and Van Buren St. That could provide space for additional development.
"I would argue it's the best remaining downtown development site when you look at location and accessibility," said Tom Zale, Northwestern Mutual vice president and head of Northwestern Mutual Real Estate, the company's real estate investment division.
The property's $11.5 million assessed value includes $8.2 million for the land, according to city records.
Zale declined to discuss Foxconn's plans for the property, which is available because of Northwestern Mutual's new 32-story office tower.
Foxconn representatives are expected to provide information about their plans at a Tuesday afternoon news conference. Gov. Scott Walker and other officials are expected to attend.
Foxconn's pending purchase, which is expected to be final by June, is very good news for downtown, said William Bonifas, an executive vice president at CBRE Inc. real estate brokerage.
The company will use a large block of space that would otherwise compete with other older downtown Milwaukee office buildings, Bonifas said. And the move brings more jobs to the city.
Also, there's a symbolic importance of something unusual for Milwaukee: an industrial company that has a downtown headquarters.
Most such area companies have their headquarters in the suburbs, Bonifas said.
"I think that's just a great thing," he said.
The office building will be roughly 30 miles from Taiwan-based Foxconn's manufacturing complex that's under development in Mount Pleasant, just east of I-94 and north of Highway KR.
The 1,200-acre flat screen manufacturing operations could eventually employ around 13,000 people in Racine County. The $10 billion project's financing could include up to $3 billion in state cash and $764 million in local funds.
The sale agreement was reached quickly.
Northwestern Mutual began marketing the building last summer, Zale said.
The company started shifting employees from the 611 E. Wisconsin Ave. site to other downtown campus buildings after Northwestern Mutual's new tower and commons opened in August.
Foxconn's broker, Colliers International, approached Northwestern in December, and a purchase agreement was negotiated in January, Zale said.
Northwestern Mutual still has around 200 employees in the building. They'll be relocated by late spring.
When the building was full, nearly 600 people worked in it, said Betsy Hoylman, Northwestern Mutual's director of media and public relations.
The company opened the building in 1965 as an investment property. It was leased to IBM Corp. for decades as a data processing center.
Northwestern Mutual began using the space in 2001 for its expanding operations.
"We're excited to have Foxconn come in as a neighbor," Zale said. "I really think the big winner here is Milwaukee, and the state of Wisconsin."
"I’m pleased that another significant company is choosing Milwaukee," City Development Commissioner Rocky Marcoux said in a statement. "I welcome Foxconn to the center of our city."