Johnson Financial Group plans to establish a new flagship office in Milwaukee in the space Husch Blackwell is vacating when it moves to the Huron Building. The Racine-based financial services firm signed a lease at Cathedral Place, 555 E. Wells St., and will consolidate its two downtown Milwaukee locations into one. Joel Lee’s Van Buren Management Inc. developed the building.

Johnson Financial leased 45,000 square feet under a 10-year deal. The firm plans to bring its financial services under one roof next fall, while also opening a bank branch on the ground floor of the same building. Johnson Financial is taking over the space where The Huntington National Bank previously operated a branch office.

The office was one of 17 Associated Bank closed after it acquired the Wisconsin operations of Huntington Bancshares Inc. Jim Popp, the chief executive officer of Johnson Financial Group, said the bank branch could open sooner than the rest of the office, depending both on construction and regulatory approval.

Popp said moving into Cathedral Place will allow Johnson Financial to move all of its Milwaukee staff into one location. The firm now has downtown Milwaukee offices at 100 E. Wisconsin Ave. and 333 E. Wisconsin Ave.

Although the Covid-19 pandemic showed the company it can operate remotely, Popp said he wants staff members to eventually return to the office.

“Being face-to-face with everyone to solve problems is still something that’s really important to us,” Popp said. “Our intent is to have the bulk of our folks back face-to-face when the time is right.”

When the project is complete, Popp said more than 100 employees would work out of the building near Cathedral Square Park. The office will house functions including the wealth business, commercial banking, private banking, mortgage personnel and insurance.

He said he expects the company to take possession of its new space in October. The firm intends to gut the space and rebuild it to its own specifications. Work is anticipated to begin in November.

Popp said the new office represents a long-term investment in Milwaukee, which he described as a dynamic market.

The corporate advisory team at CBRE, including Bill Bonifas, Matt Cariello and Kenzie Kiefer, along with retail colleague and expert Andy Stefanich, represented Johnson Financial Group in the move, the firm said. Rinka will serve as architect.

By Sari Lesk – Reporter, Milwaukee Business Journal