Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Couture Seeks Commercial Tenants

44-story apartment tower will have 40,000 square left for a grocer, restaurants, medical office.

By - Dec 4th, 2017 12:12 pm
The Couture as seen from the north. Rendering by Rinka Chung Architecture.

The Couture as seen from the north. Rendering by Rinka Chung Architecture.

A leasing flyer from the Mid-America Real Estate Group sheds new light on plans for the commercial space in The Couture. The proposed 44-story lakefront tower is approved to include over 300 high-end apartments on its upper floors, with the first three floors containing approximately 40,000 square-feet of commercial space and a transit center.

The flyer, which bills the development as “Milwaukee’s unparalleled mixed use development,” notes the project could contain two restaurants, a grocery store and a medical office. The tower is being developed by Barrett Lo Visionary Development. Design work on the tower is being led by frequent-Barrett collaborator Rinka Chung Architecture.

The proposed grocery store space totals 22,290 square feet and is split across the first and second floors. An additional 4,595 square feet of space is provided along the transit concourse for back-of-the-house functions. That’s far smaller than many suburban supermarkets, but in line with new urban grocers such as Fresh Thyme, which occupies just under 29,000 square feet in The North End. The flyer states that “60+” parking stalls in the attached 975-stall garage are reserved for the anchor tenant.

A medical office is envisioned for the second floor, just north of the grocery store. The space, which has the shape of the cylindrical tower, is listed at 8,104 square-feet.

The third-floor is being marketed as two separate restaurant spaces. The northern space would be directly above the medical office and contain 4,931 square feet of space and an outdoor patio oriented northeast. The southern restaurant space is listed at 4,840 square feet and features a wraparound outdoor patio oriented to the southeast.

For extensive details on the tower’s design, including a fourth-floor rooftop deck for residents, the first-floor streetcar and bus concourse, and potential second-floor pedestrian bridges, see my column from March.

The city will contribute $19.5 million to the project through a tax-incremental financing district, including $2 million for a previously unidentified sewer on the site. Department of Public Works Coordination Manager Karen Dettmer tells Urban Milwaukee the sewer will be re-layed as part of the foundation work on the structure.

The leasing flyer says that the project at 909 E. Michigan St. is scheduled for 2020. When the project was given final design approved in April, developer Rick Barrett said that a groundbreaking was likely for December 2017 and that tower would take 30 months to build.

His office did not return a request for comment by the time of publication and the city’s permitting website shows no pending permits for the project. Construction equipment from general contractor J.H. Findorff & Son has been on site for a number of months. Demolition of the Downtown Transit Center, which formerly occupied the site, was completed earlier this year.

New Renderings and Site Plans

Renderings Released for Design Approval

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11 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Couture Seeks Commercial Tenants”

  1. Troll says:

    City has to kick in $20 million in aid to prime lakefront real estate and liberals want to moan about Foxconn. Better yet, the most expensive transportation per mile in Wisconsin history is being built downtown and it’s demand is so great that it’s free for the user.

  2. Sam says:

    Troll doesn’t understand TIFs.

  3. Uber says:

    Troll is pretty on point.

  4. Adam says:

    “City has to kick in $20 million in aid to prime lakefront real estate and liberals want to moan about Foxconn”
    Corporate welfare is corporate welfare, I’ll give you that. But seems apples and oranges. Couture- $20 million back on property tax assessments. Foxconn- $3 billion dollars cash from the good citizens of WI. Not a tax break cause manufacturers don’t pay taxes any more due to earlier corporate welfare scheme cooked up by the GOPers.

    “Better yet, the most expensive transportation per mile in Wisconsin history is being built downtown and it’s demand is so great that it’s free for the user.”
    Any citation this is the most expensive mile in transportation history? How much do users of our transportation system called roads and freeways pay each time they use it?
    Thanks for playing!

  5. TRoll says:

    Adam, you must not own a combustion engine. A vehicular driver pays $130 dollars annually. For every gallon of gas a driver pays over 50 Cents a gallon to the Feds and the State. Also, that same driver pays to subsidize public transportation, bike lanes and crappy art along Freeway walls.

  6. Adam says:


    I do own an internal combustion engine. Our family has two in fact, as is the case with most advocates of having more transportation options than just cars. As you probably know, registration fees and gas taxes do not cover the cost of maintaining and building our road networks. The rest is made up for through property and income taxes. And again most people that like bike networks and mass transit also own houses and have jobs, so we all pay our fair share.
    The free streetcar rides will be for a limited time to reintroduce the city to rail. Hopefully the city is able to expand the network past this starter line to a real rail network where they certainly will be charging a fee to ride.

  7. John says:

    Troll, I would suggest you learn how TIF typically works before you bash it. The City does pony up money up front, but is paid back through the incremental (I in TIF) increase in property taxes. Additionally, I would guess the City got a pop on the parcel’s assessment the minute the parcel transferred from the tax free Transit Center to a private owner. Since the prior use likely meant zero in property taxes for a number of years, this is a large increase to the tax base. Depending on the developer agreement, the developer likely is getting less than $.90 on the dollar, and also has to pay interest on the amount the City provides. Plus, our skyline will look that much better.

  8. James says:

    Increase in the tax base will not be realized until the TIF is paid in full. For the Couture, the $49.5 million TIF (No.82) is projected to be paid off 17 years from now in 2035.

    Likewise, the $73 million TIF (No. 78) for Northwestern Mutual is projected to be paid off more than 20 years from now in 2039. This was based upon NML’s promise of 3,000 employees (1,100 current plus 1,900 more) by 2030. Remember last year when NML fired hundreds of its downtown employees. Who is tracking the headcount, and what happens if NML is below 3,000 employees downtown?

    In 2004 newly elected Mayor Barrett was quoted as saying the TIF districts should be reserved for blighted areas, and the dependence of developers on TIF needs to be examined.

  9. TransitRider says:

    James, did you read the story you cited? In that story Barrett did not say that “TIF districts should be reserved for blighted areas”. He said the city had no obligation to use TIFs for non-blighted areas, but didn’t say the city shouldn’t or wouldn’t.

    Even though property tax receipts stay almost static (affected only by rate increases) during the life of the TIF, the TIF-funded project provide other benefits:
    • Increased sales, hotel, and income taxes
    • Increased employment
    • Reduced welfare spending (due to increased employment)
    • “Halo effect” property tax revenue increase in surrounding areas
    • Funding for projects that would otherwise come from the tax levy

  10. James says:

    TransitRider, this is what I read:

    “It is obviously a popular financing approach,” said the mayor. “We need to ensure that we are setting up TIFs in areas of the city that meet the definition of blighted areas.”

    Given the city’s tight budget, Barrett said it is important the city limit the number of properties that are taken off the tax rolls.”

  11. Ryan says:

    Are they ever going to break ground on this building? I am all for it, it is gorgeous, and I hope the second tower is eventually built as well, and as result Milwaukee will finally start developing a great looking skyline deserving of a great city, and have more people living downtown as well, but it has been almost a year since the Transit Center came down, and now they continue to push out the groundbreaking. I am beginning to wonder if there are financial problems associated with this project.

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