By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Sep 25, 2013 at 12:36 PM

Late Wednesday morning, Northwestern Mutual unveiled drawings of the newest member of the Milwaukee skyline: the Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons. 

The building, which will replace the company's current east office building, will be 32 stories high with curved glass panels arcing southeast toward Lake Michigan. Architect Jon Pickard, of Pickard Chilton, and John Schlifske, chairman, president and CEO of Northwestern Mutual, noted they wanted the new building to take advantage of Milwaukee's lakefront and also bring natural light into the workplace. 

Along with the tower comes the Northwestern Mutual Commons, a public community space which will include a visitors' center, cafe, outdoor dining area and an almost three-acre public garden area. 

Schlifske said he hopes the new Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons will serve as a reflection of the company's ongoing commitment to Milwaukee, as well as an iconic structure for the city that will stand the test of time.

Construction of the tower is scheduled to begin in December with the tearing down of the current east office building. The groundbreaking is expected to take place sometime during the fall of 2014, and NML expects to move into the new space in 2017.

Speaking at the public design unveiling, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett called the Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons "catalytic," and also noted the new high-rise makes a statement that "Milwaukee is fighting forward."

And apparently upward, as well.