10:29 AM

American Family and MB Acquisition, LLC enter a joint venture to revitalize Mandel building in Milwaukee


Building will be renovated and expanded for 400 employees in a variety of roles. 

Jack Salzwedel, American Family Insurance chair and CEO
“We’re excited about Milwaukee’s revitalization and want to be part of it. With our new downtown location and increased involvement in the community, we plan to join others in the economic rebirth of Milwaukee and help the city become more equitable, healthy and sustainable.”
Jack Salzwedel, American Family Insurance chair and CEO

American Family Insurance and MB Acquisition, LLC will partner to renovate a 110-year-old downtown Milwaukee landmark, turning a former commercial printing and hosiery manufacturing building into a state-of-the-art office while preserving its historic character.

“We’re excited about Milwaukee’s revitalization and want to be part of it,” said Jack Salzwedel, American Family Insurance chair and CEO. “With our new downtown location and increased involvement in the community, we plan to join others in the economic rebirth of Milwaukee and help the city become more equitable, healthy and sustainable.”

“Milwaukee is home to diverse groups, large business networks and great universities and community organizations,” he added. “We believe the city will be a future technology hub where American Family can help build and draw from a pipeline of potential employees.”

The building on N. Martin Luther King Drive, commonly known as the Mandel building, will be home to a new multi-purpose American Family office, with space for 400 employees in a variety of roles, including claims, high-tech and community partnerships.

The building will be owned by a newly-created joint venture entity comprised of MB Acquisition, LLC, current owner of the building, and American Family. MB Acquisition, LLC is operated by Joel Lee, president of Van Buren Management, Inc., and his son, Daniel Lee, the company’s vice president.

American Family will pay to renovate and expand the building with additional floors. Once the work is completed, American Family will lease the building, with an option to purchase it or extend the lease after 10 years.

Why is American Family renovating the former Mandel building?

“After completing an extensive search of possible sites in downtown Milwaukee, the Mandel location rose to the top as the best location to attract talent and collaborate with the community,” said Kari Grasee, American Family vice president of business and workplace services, which oversees company facilities.

Grasee added that the building is also in a developing business district, with easy access to public transportation, and the structure is solid with beautiful historic architectural character.

The building, used for many years as a print shop for Mandel Graphic Solutions, has been home to a variety of businesses. It was built in 1909 for the Phoenix Hosiery company, which manufactured silk stockings and hosiery.

“We’re pleased American Family has chosen to partner with us and put their Milwaukee office in the historic Mandel building,” Daniel Lee said.

Added Joel Lee, “The site and neighborhood have the potential to be something exceptional, and the renovation of this building can also be a driver for other companies to develop here.”

Diverse roles and activity planned for new office

Estimated time to renovate the building is 2-3 years. When it is completed, approximately 200-250 employees, mostly in claims, will relocate to the building from American Family’s current office in Pewaukee. Approximately 150 additional employees will work in the building from other functions.

Those functions will include technology and data science, community investments and partnerships, and an American Family sales and agent recruitment center. It will also contain a public space called DreamBank, which will host community events and have staff and resources to help people pursue their personal aspirations.

“Our goal is to have the work and activities in the building be as innovative and inspirational as the building itself,” said Justin Cruz, American Family vice president of inclusive excellence. Cruz said American Family is committed to new and creative ways to attract and retain diverse and tech-savvy talent, including millennials who want to live in an urban area.

Joel Lee added, “One of our goals with this project was to find a way to be part of the effort to address the disparities issues facing Milwaukee. Having a dedicated company like American Family join with other local companies committed to achieving this goal is a win for our city.”

What investments has American Family made in Milwaukee?

American Family Insurance is partnering in areas important to the Milwaukee community including education, the arts and sports. The investments are designed to reach and support a broad cross-section of Milwaukee residents while increasing the company’s name recognition and visibility.

Partnerships include a $1 million, four-year investment in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s new Lubar Entrepreneurship Center, a focal point for entrepreneurship education and programs in the Milwaukee area. The center is a cross-disciplinary collaboration that features classrooms for courses and workshops, gathering spots for speakers, and labs for prototyping products and software.

American Family’s partnership with Summerfest supports arts and music in Milwaukee and enhances an important Milwaukee tradition. Increasing support of the Brewers major league baseball team gives American Family another connection to the Milwaukee community, including a partnership to upgrade high school baseball fields in the region.

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About American Family Insurance
Madison, Wisconsin-based American Family Insurance group is the nation's 13th-largest property/casualty insurance group and ranks No. 306 on the Fortune 500 list. The company sells American Family-brand products, including auto, homeowners, life, business and farm/ranch insurance, primarily through its exclusive independent contractor agents in 19 states. American Family affiliates (The General and Homesite) also provide options for consumers who want to manage their insurance matters directly over the internet or by phone. Affiliate Main Street America sells insurance products through independent agents and affiliate Ameriprise Auto & Home sells through partners. Web; Facebook; Twitter

About MB Acquisition, LLC
MB Acquisition, LLC is indirectly owned by Joel Lee, the President of Van Buren Management, Inc. Van Buren Management owns and manages one of the largest corporate real estate portfolios in the Milwaukee marketplace with more than 15 buildings and 2,000,000 square feet. VBM’s staff has more than 30 years of experience in the development and management of commercial real estate in downtown Milwaukee.