A Closer Look at Northwestern Mutual’s Plans for a Pedestrian Plaza Downtown

The company says the plaza will “better activate the area for the public, employees and visitors.”

The coverage of Northwestern Mutual’s new $500 million project focused on the 2,000 employees moving Downtown and remake of its stately but drab North Office Tower in the image of the signature Tower and Commons opened six years ago. Getting less attention was the intriguing proposal to convert the intersection of Mason and Cass streets to a pedestrian plaza, swapping traffic and street parking for green space.  

“Incorporating this into the larger design of the project fits our vision of creating a space that is community-oriented and lively, and a place to connect,” says Rebecca Villegas, vice president of enterprise compliance for Northwestern Mutual.  


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The 700 block of North Cass Street is surrounded on three sides by NWM property – the North Office Tower, the Tower and Commons lobby and a parking structure. Plans for the plaza remain in development and could be shaped by as yet unsecured city approvals, but Northwestern Mutual is proposing to dead-end Cass just south of East Wells Street, severing the through route to East Mason Street.  

The company says the plaza will “better activate the area for the public, employees and visitors,” and Villegas calls it an extension of the prioritization of public space seen in the Tower and Commons, which has about two acres of park-like gardens along its bend of Wisconsin Avenue.  

 “We believe creating a new, public space will not only help foster a campus connection to our buildings and Milwaukee’s downtown but will also benefit the broader community with more access to green space in the heart of the city,” Villegas says.  

Construction on the project could begin as soon as this fall.  

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the street segments Northwestern Mutual is proposing to close to traffic. The original language erroneously included a wider area proposed for closure. 



This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine’s April issue.

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