Jeramey Jannene
Plats and Parcels

The Couture Getting New Signage

Plus: Walker's Point brewery may become climbing gym, funding for Soldiers Home project.

By - Aug 25th, 2019 08:56 pm
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The Couture Rendering. Rendering by Rinka Chung Architecture.

The Couture Rendering. Rendering by RINKA.

Groundbreakings, ribbon cuttings, zoning changes, deal announcements. The lead item in this column is typically related to a major update. But we’ll deviate from that tried-and-true formula this week to talk about a fence and its attached signage.

Multiple readers reached out this week to ask what was happening at the site of the proposed 44-story The Couture apartment tower. The signage wrapping the site was coming down. Was the project canceled? Is Rick Barrett throwing in the towel?

Fear not, The Couture keeps inching forward. Barrett Lo Visionary Development, after allowing a federal loan guarantee application to lapse, is still pursuing more equity investors to get the project out of the ground. The firm recently hired Robert W. Baird and Co. to work on the effort.

“We are in the process of refreshing the signage around The Couture as we reinvest in the site,” Barrett told Sean Ryan on Thursday. The new signage is part of a strategy to showcase the site to out-of-state investors.

The firm owns the site, having acquired it from Milwaukee County. The Downtown Transit Center was demolished by Barrett Lo and its contracting team in January 2017.

The bigger question that remains is what will the city do now that the tower won’t be started in time to accommodate a December 2020 deadline to get the lakefront streetcar extension operating. It was originally planned to run through the base of the tower. City Engineer Samir Amin said in June that the city would need to move onto an undefined “Plan B” if the project has not advanced by August 31st.

Walker’s Point Brewery to Become Climbing Gym?

Milwaukee Brewing Company, which opened a new brewery late last year, has a deal to sell its Walker’s Point location at 613 S. 2nd St. Michael Horne reported the brewery was for sale as a turnkey brewery in May 2018, but the prospective buyer will have no use for brewing equipment.

Climbing gym operator Adventure Rock secured approval on a $500,000 loan from the city-affiliated Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) this week. The company currently operates climbing gyms in suburban Brookfield and at the base of the Mandel Group‘s aptly-named Belay Apartments building in Riverwest. The gym currently has 3,300 members spread across the two facilities and views the first two facilities as a “tremendous success.”

“We wanted to be in an area that was exciting, that was growing, that was diverse and would still be within our range so all members can utilize all of our facilities,” general manager Craig Burzynski told Alex Zank of the proposed third facility. “We looked in the Walker’s Point, the Third Ward area, and walked into this building and it’s a cool building.”

Zank reported that the new facility would be focused on bouldering (shorter routes closer to the ground), climbing training and yoga.

Tom Daykin reported that it’s not known at this point if Central Standard Craft Distillery would maintain its tavern in the space.

Old Main Redevelopment Gets $547,000 Loan

The Alexander Company has secured a $547,000 loan from MEDC to support the redevelopment of six Soldiers Home buildings into affordable housing for veterans. The signature piece of the $43.8 million effort is the redevelopment of Old Main, the central building at the historic campus.

The project, which is expected to break ground later this year, relies on a complicated mix of financing including historic preservation and low-income housing tax credits.

Foxconn Starts Vertical Construction

Contract technology manufacturer Foxconn announced it started vertical construction this week on its Gen6 LCD fabrication facility in southern Racine County. The move, part of the normal construction process where work turns from the foundation to the standing structure, set off a flurry of news stories after the company sent off a press release announcing the milestone on the heavily discussed project. You can read the details from the company and its general contractors in the press release, published verbatim on Urban Milwaukee, or you can read Urban Milwaukee editor Bruce Murphy‘s latest analysis of the ever-changing deal.

Drury Opens in Late September

The 227-room Drury Plaza Hotel will open in the redeveloped First Financial Centre on September 26th. The hotel chain acquired the underutilized office building and has spent over two years on demolition and construction, much of which has remained nearly invisible from passersby on one of Downtown’s busiest intersections.

Much work remains to be done, but signage has been installed atop the 14-story building and a number of guest rooms towards the top of the building appear ready for occupancy.

The hotel, located at 700 N. Water St., will be the Missouri-based chain’s first in Wisconsin. Learn more.

An Affordable Apartment Assembly Line?

Affordable urban apartment buildings could soon come from a factory.

Skender, an Illinois-based construction company, has begun building modular, multi-family housing in a plant on the Chicago’s southwest side.

The vision is to build and ship finished “modules,” effectively rooms or entire apartments slated for a three-story, three-unit building, in six days.

Labor is one of the biggest drivers of the cost to construct housing, regardless of whether the unit is destined to be set aside as an affordable or high-end luxury unit. The Skender model attempts to save money by shortening the construction timeline, eliminating the need to hire as many subcontractors and reducing the amount of on-site work hours required. It could also deliver more cost certainty, an issue that has plagued Milwaukee affordable housing projects.

We examine the idea in our latest Urban Ideas column.

Legacy Building Project Moves Forward

An MEDC committee recommended approval on a $780,000 loan to support the redevelopment of the Legacy Building at 1920 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

It will feature a co-working space called Legacy, along with new offices for the African American Chamber of Commerce and a communal kitchen for local food entrepreneurs. We first reported on the project in March. More details on the project are available in a press release from the chamber.

Grants Building Sold to Agee

An investment group led by King Drive business improvement district executive director Deshea Agee has acquired the vacant Grants Building at 2235 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. Sean Ryan was the first to report on the $370,000 sale.

Agee and unidentified partners in 2235 MLK Grants LLC acquired the building from Paul Bachowski. Agee told Ryan that no specific plans have been identified.

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