Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

The Couture Cleared for Takeoff

Long-anticipated project receives financing commitment from federal government.

By - Nov 2nd, 2018 11:57 am
The Couture. Rendering by Rinka Chung Architecture.

The Couture. Rendering by Rinka Chung Architecture.

Milwaukee’s most anticipated real estate project has finally secured a financing deal to allow construction to proceed.

The Couture, a proposed $122 million, 44-story apartment tower, was first announced in 2012. Developers Rick Barrett and Tan Lo of Barrett Lo Visionary Development have aggressively sought a financing package for years to enable the tower’s construction.

Because of high construction costs, the developer had been seeking a federal loan guarantee from the Department of Housing and Urban Department. That review has been underway for months, but Department of City Development Commissioner Rocky Marcoux said last week he expected a response from HUD in the coming weeks.

That answer came today. HUD has asked Barrett for a firm commitment to secure the deal. “This is a major milestone for The Couture that enables us to move forward with the final stage of financing,” said Barrett.

The loan guarantee would provide security on the project’s $80 million loan, allowing the deal to proceed. Barrett Lo will contribute $5 million in equity and investors will contribute an additional $20 million. The remaining funds will come from additional loans and city financing.

The tower is planned to include over 300 apartments and 40,000 square feet of commercial space.

The city had already agreed to contribute $17.5 million to the project through a tax-incremental financing district to support the construction of a streetcar and bus terminal in the building’s base as well as a three-story public atrium. An additional $2 million was added to the public financing package to pay for relocation of a previously undocumented 48-inch-wide sewer that runs through the site.

The developers secured a similar guarantee to build The Moderne, a 30-story apartment and condominium tower near the Fiserv Forum.

Barrett, no relation to Mayor Tom Barrett, bought the site at 909 E. Michigan St. from Milwaukee County for $500,000 in 2016. The below market price was intended to account for the cost of demolishing the Downtown Transit Center structure on the two-acre site.

The company, through contractor J&H Findorff & Son Inc. and Viet & Co., demolished the Downtown Transit Center in late 2016. Findorff, a union contractor, will construct the tower. Because of the city financing, the contractor will have to hire unemployed or underemployed city residents for 40 percent of the project’s work hours as well as city-certified disadvantaged small businesses for 25 percent of the project’s work.

The tower is being designed by Rinka Chung Architecture.

A leasing flyer for the project’s commercial space on its lower levels, which includes a streetcar station and bus rapid transit line stop, was distributed by Mid-America Real Estate Group late last year.

Urban Milwaukee broke the news in the spring of 2017 that the 44-floor tower isn’t intended to stand alone on the site. The design of the parking garage includes space for a second tower and multiple sources confirm Barrett has explored ideas for the tower.

The company has announced its intent to break ground multiple times, but has, until today, struggled to complete the financing package necessary to proceed with the project.

The streetcar line through the site is expected to begin operations in 2020.

Late 2017 Renderings and Site Plans

Renderings Released for Design Approval

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2 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: The Couture Cleared for Takeoff”

  1. kennellm says:

    Awesome! This is the best news of the week! Can’t wait for it to spring up!

  2. HamBam says:

    Fantastic news! I drive by the area pretty often, it will be fun to see the construction make progress over time.

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