Graham Kilmer
MKE County

County Committee Mollified on Couture

Delay on 44-floor lakefront tower had been issue, but key supervisors now happy.

By - Dec 4th, 2018 12:25 pm
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Rendering of The Couture

Rendering of The Couture

What a difference a few months make.

It was all smiles yesterday when Rick Barrett of Barrett Lo Visionary Development appeared before the Milwaukee County Board’s Economic and Community Development Committee, the same committee that caused a media firestorm when its members openly mused about ways to take back land the county sold to Barrett for his massive 44-story lakefront tower, The Couture.

Barrett informed the committee that the project had jumped “a very important hurdle,” now that it secured preliminary approval from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for a loan guarantee for part of the $120 million financing package. Barrett is “moving towards” closing his financing deal for The Couture, a process that typically takes five to six months, he said.

Barrett said there is some work to be done at the site in the meantime. Specifically, relocating a sewer pipe to allow for construction to start.

At this update, the committee chair Sup. Marcelia Nicholson, and committee member, Sup. John Weishan, Jr. were cordial and friendly with Barrett, who returned the favor, even saying he would appear before the committee whenever asked.

That was a huge change from a meeting in September, when the committee received an update on the project from Aaron Hertzberg, the Economic Development Director for the county, who noted that progress on the project was stalled, In response, a dismayed Weishan and Nicholson began discussing the county taking back the property and soliciting new project proposals or the taking some other action.

These statements soon erupted in the local media. Barrett was quoted in BizTimes saying their words were “detrimental” to the project and invited the supervisors to his office for a briefing on the project. Weishan left that meeting and was also quoted in BizTimes saying, “After speaking with Mr. Barrett, I got what I thought an appropriate update on the project. I wasn’t given any real timeline, but I’m confident they are working on the project and doing everything they can on their end.”

Weishan told Urban Milwaukee the concerns that arose in September were in part to blame on the committee being out of the loop on the project. “Our economic development department needed to be more proactive in sharing information with the board,” he said. 

Nicholson could not be reached for comment. In a press release she said, “As Chair of the Committee on Economic Development, I want to extend my appreciation to Mr. Barrett for taking the time to appear before our committee and update us publicly on his project. We are counting on The Couture to provide good jobs for county residents and to ensure important contracts for disadvantaged business. I’m confident that Mr. Barrett will deliver on those commitments and excited to see this project get underway,”

Barrett has agreed to come before the committee quarterly to brief the committee on the project. Weishan added that these briefings are also for the public and the media, who have a right to know what’s going on in county business.

Late 2017 Renderings and Site Plans

Renderings Released for Design Approval

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Categories: MKE County, Real Estate

One thought on “MKE County: County Committee Mollified on Couture”

  1. Patricia Jursik says:

    Of course Rick Barrett should appear before the county any time he is asked. The citizens of Milwaukee County have given Barrett a unique opportunity supported with public land and public resources. He is not doing this as a favor. Let’s not forget the only representative citizens have in overseeing the use of these public resources are elected officials.

    I do hope we see the Couture rise; but it seems to me that developers are taking a victory lap before the victory. They still can not close on this deal. And the time limits have run. I know how difficult it is to deal with HUD and think the EDC committee has to be reasonable on time lines. But lets not act hypercritical of government process. When developers decide to build on public land, asking for public money, they should be big boys and know what is in store for them, whether they wear socks or not.

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