MILWAUKEE -- After three years of construction and anticipation, the Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons opened its doors on Monday, August 21st.
“Seeing this building on the inside for the first time," said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. "Is absolutely breathtaking.”
A grand opening ceremony was the first time many people, including the Mayor, saw the insides of the complex.
"One of the coolest things for me," said Northwestern Mutual Chairman and CEO John Schlifske. "Is finally seeing people walking around here and actually working and enjoying it. It just brings the whole thing alive, and I love it.”
At 32 floors and 550 feet, the tower – designed to look like a billowing sail along the lakefront – is now the second-tallest building in Wisconsin, trailing only the nearby U.S. Bank building by 51 feet.
"There’s a certain elegance, modesty if you will," said project architect Jon Pickard of Pickard Chilton. "It’s a beautiful building but it’s not trying to shout with a loud voice.”
Northwestern Mutual let its money do the talking, investing approximately $450 million into the new headquarters.
"Northwestern Mutual has made a tremendous statement," Barrett said. "That it believes in the future of this city by making this investment.”
"It shows that Milwaukee is open for business," added Schlifske. "I think it shows that companies can thrive here. That companies can have successful futures here."
About 2,400 employees will move into the building during a process that starts Friday and is scheduled to run through mid-October. Over the Tower and Commons' 1.1 million square feet, they will find an expansive, comfortable setting designed to be a state-of-the-art work space.
From the expansive, public atrium, to the employee gym, open-concept floor plan and crowning jewel of a 32nd floor, the Tower and Commons is more than a million square feet of state-of-the-art work space.
“The entire design," Pickard explained. "Is predicated on the notion, 'How do you make a great space for employees to do their jobs, and to do their jobs effectively?'"
The general public will be able to visit parts of the complex, including the large atrium – featuring a 40-foot fireplace and a Starbucks – and the outdoor grounds.
"We wanted this space to be neighborly," Schlifske said. "Just like you might invite someone into your home for a cup of coffee, that’s what we wanted to do in this building.
As an organization, Northwestern Mutual is expanding its business from solely life insurance to a broader financial security company.
“We’re transforming everything about it," said Schlifske. "The way we work, what we do. And this building is a symbol of that transformation.”
A company, like the building it now calls home, that’s ready for the 21st century.