Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Multiple Tower Groundbreakings in 2018

Couture, 1550 are in the works, but what about another lakefront tower?

By - Apr 11th, 2018 10:03 am
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1550 N. Prospect Ave. Renderings

1550 N. Prospect Ave. Renderings by Kahler Slater.

What’s the status of The Couture? When will the controversial 1550 high rise on Prospect Avenue break ground? Will Johnson Controls ever build a lakefront tower? Who will pay for that lakefront park?

Department of City Development Commissioner Rocky Marcoux attempted to answer all these questions and more Tuesday morning at a meeting of Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee members.

The presentation was vintage Marcoux, who is known for fast-paced, slide-filled presentations that are filled with Milwaukee cheerleading and can often blow up a meeting schedule. Committee chair Jim Bohl had wisely scheduled Marcoux’s item for the end of the meeting, with the commissioner delivering a 45-minute long presentation that touched on virtually every corner of the greater downtown area.

Marcoux started by explaining the status of the Lakefront Gateway project, a multi-phase process to reconfigure Lincoln Memorial Dr., Interstate 794 and a number city streets that involved a partnership between the city, county and state, as well as a number of private partners. The entire project is nearly complete, and Marcoux is quite pleased. “The collective team did a magnificent job,” the commissioner told the committee.

Of more interest to Milwaukeeans at this point, though, are likely a handful of ancillary projects that the gateway project helps make possible, most notably The Couture.

The Couture

During his presentation, Marcoux confirmed that Barrett Lo Visionary Development (no relation to the mayor) did indeed rebid the proposed 44-story tower’s general contracting, but ended up re-selecting J.H. Findorff & Son Inc. after receiving a maximum cost figure. That is a major milestone for the project that has struggled with rising construction costs, said Marcoux.

“Our expectation is that they will break ground in October 2018,” said Marcoux, before quickly noting that depending on when they close on their financing it could actually be a November groundbreaking. But he added that Barrett Lo likely hopes to break ground sooner than that, and could as soon as their financing package is approved.

The city is going to need the long-delayed project to hit that mark, as construction on the lakefront line of the Milwaukee Streetcar is moving towards the building. “We’ve had significant interplay with the Department of Public Works to make sure that there are no issues with the streetcar finishing on time… We’re all in agreement that this doesn’t jeopardize their schedule.”

The 44-story building would include a transit hub on the building’s first floor that would serve The Hop and the Milwaukee County Transit System. The base of the building would also include 40,000 square-feet of commercial space, with over 300 apartments above.

Alderman Robert Bauman chimed in that he understands the AFL-CIO pension fund will provide a loan for the project, similar to what happened with Barrett’s The Moderne tower. Marcoux declined to identify any financing partners, but did say the developer has submitted a loan guarantee application to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, similar to what Barrett-Lo did with their other tower.

Johnson Controls Tower

Potential Tower Site. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Potential Tower Site. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Lakefront Gateway project created a marquee development site at the southwest corner of N. Lincoln Memorial Dr. and E. Clybourn Ave. by relocating Interstate 794 ramps, but no action has occurred on the 2.66 site yet. Johnson Controls has long been rumored to be exploring a tower for the site.

That deal isn’t dead yet, with Marcoux noting that the company’s merger with Tyco and subsequent CEO transition put the measure on the backburner. “They’re still evaluating where they’re at, with their Glendale presence, with their downtown presence,” said Marcoux about the company’s two biggest Milwaukee-area offices.

But the city isn’t sitting idle while that takes place. Marcoux confirmed that the site was pitched to Foxconn for their downtown office and to Amazon in response to its nationwide office search.

“We want to make sure we don’t just give it to the highest bidder for the land price,” said Marcoux. He said the city needs to take into account economic impact in terms of jobs and tax base.

Regardless of when the site is developed, Marcoux is pleased with the road to get there. “Clybourn is now a boulevard instead of an alley.”

Lakefront Gateway Plaza

One major piece of the puzzle remaining to remake the downtown lakefront is the Lakefront Gateway Plaza. After holding a nationwide design competition for the lakefront park, there hasn’t been much activity. That’s about to change.

“I’m putting together a fundraising committee this year. We’re going to try to raise the $30 million privately,” said Marcoux. He invited any of the council members present to join him and the Greater Milwaukee Committee in the effort. They’ll have their hands full, as the city intends to pay for the park’s entire cost through private donations.

The city selected a team consisting of GRAEF, PFS Studio, Rinka Chung Architecture, DEW (Dan Euser) and NEWaukee in 2015 as the winning bidder for the park’s design.

A big part of the park is a bridge across N. Lincoln Memorial Dr. into The Couture. The two projects could exist independent of one another, but the design of both shows a seamless connection between the two.

1550 on Prospect

Developer Chris Houden‘s 27-story apartment tower proposed for 1550 N. Prospect Ave. is scheduled to break ground in August. That was the report from Marcoux, who said he recently had a conversation with the developer regarding the project.

The project, which was subject to a multi-year approval battle, would include 192 apartments. It has an estimated cost of $55 million.

Downtown Housing Boom

Look for a column tomorrow on the growth of downtown housing and a number of other projects in the pipeline.

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More about the Couture

7 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Multiple Tower Groundbreakings in 2018”

  1. MidnightSon says:

    Multiple = Two. If that.

  2. Dudemeister says:

    Indeed, “but what about another lakefront tower?” as the tagline decrees?

  3. Tyrell Track Master says:

    Don’t forget the new St. John’s tower.

  4. roz says:

    Arrgh, i love cities, i love sky lines. i’m from new york. one of the few things i like about milwaukee is the lake front and the idea that anyone can get to it and enjoy it. however, as i said before, to me the courture and other lux. high rises just seem elitist and wrong.

  5. Sun badger says:

    The Couture is vaporware. Six years and still no activity. Trying to find financing is a bad sign

  6. Steve says:

    Will the U.S. Bank Tower ever lose it’s title as the tallest building in the State?(Completed in 1973)I remember it was three years ago that Johnson Controls proposed a 50 story building between 700 to 800 feet tall.Is the ground too marshy or soft to build such High Rises?Or is lack of tenants to fill such high rises?Such a high rise would really make Milwaukee’s skyline stand out.

  7. Gary Rebholz says:

    Speaking of private funding of a “Gateway Park” project: in all past writing about neighboring O’Donnell Park of the past 5 years I don’t recall any mention of the mom-and-pop and some business funding of that park. The hard-scape evidence shows in the names that have been eroding away far too quickly from brick pavers used to honor family donations. That erosion is NOT due to any extreme use of O’Donell Park plaza as a public venue to take advantage of its excellent city park design. Whatever political greasing goes on in writing about new park couture, O’Donnell Park is physically the gateway park of Milwaukee’s downtown – the tragic incident their associated with Scott Walker’s Milwaukee tenure notwithstanding.

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