Couture Streetcar Extension Decision Pushed to June 2020
"We look like complete fools," says Bauman as Marcoux expresses confidence in project.
With a groundbreaking date for The Couture still uncertain, the planned streetcar extension through the building’s base continues to cause debate within City Hall.
The city faces a December 31st, 2020 federal deadline to open the lakefront extension of The Hop as a condition of the 2015 Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant that is funding half of the project. The extension, which is partially constructed, would operate along E. Michigan St. and E. Clybourn St. and loop through a three-story concourse in the base of the tower.
The city’s strategy was again being discussed by the Common Council’s Public Works Committee on Wednesday morning. And Alderman Robert Bauman wasn’t pleased the August 31st deadline meant considering other options, not moving to a plan B.
The city won the federal TIGER grant as part of a competitive process. “A major part of that proposal included transit-oriented development,” said Polenske of the transit terminal included in the base of the new tower.
The transit station would also allow Milwaukee County to avoid paying back the remaining balance on a grant that paid for the construction of the now-demolished Downtown Transit Center.
But Bauman sees things differently.
“Maybe we’re on different planets here, we’re looking like complete fools, complete idiots,” said the committee chair.
Polenske said one option being considered is seeking an extension with the FTA. Marcoux added that he and Milwaukee County Department of Transportation director Donna Brown-Martin recently went to Chicago to discuss the project with regional FTA leadership.
“We have not asked the FTA for an extension yet,” said Marcoux. “We’re at the point of discussion what the extension looks like and what form it takes.” Polenske had previously said the FTA did not want to discuss an extension.
Why stick with The Couture and not pursue a different development? “It’s visionary. It’s generational in its scope,” said Marcoux. He said the investment community didn’t need to see a timeline from the city on when it would pull the plug.
Bauman rejected Marcoux’s reasoning. “It was political, pure and simple,” said Bauman. The alderman said the lakefront extension and tower was part of a strategy to get philanthropist Michael Cudahy and others to back the project. “Was it ever realistic to be constructed? Very good question.”
“Good thing you’re not under oath today, that’s all I can say,” said Bauman of Marcoux.
The commissioner said he or DCD’s Lori Lutzka is in weekly communication with the developer.
“At some point, if that money is not forthcoming we will have to make a decision,” said Marcoux.
“What is that date?” fired back Bauman.
“That date will be determined in our best judgment,” responded Marcoux.
“Can you understand that may not be acceptable to members of the Common Council?” asked Bauman.
After an extensive exchange between Bauman, Marcoux and Polenske, the DCD commissioner did offer a date. “Mid 2020,” said Marcoux.
“We’ll put that in stone, June 30th, 2020,” responded Bauman. “This is a disgrace that we have allowed this to fester for so long.” Bauman said at the moment the other proposed extensions of the streetcar are dead.
The alderman isn’t standing pat waiting for an update. “I will introduce a resolution on this subject,” said the downtown alderman. He had previously suggested the council should introduce a resolution rejecting the city’s request for an extension and require DPW to build either temporary track through the site or at another point.
Much of the track for the extension has already been laid, terminating in the middle of E. Michigan and E. Clybourn streets just east of N. Van Buren St.
Alderman Nik Kovac cautioned against forcing a temporary solution if The Couture was actually close to raising the necessary funding.
“We really would look like idiots if we spent significant money on a temporary extension and then broke ground on a permanent extension a few months later,” said Kovac.
Attorney Mike Maistelman was in attendance representing Barrett Lo Visionary Development, but declined to comment saying Marcoux did a good job representing the situation.
The city has previously approved a tax-incremental financing district to provide approximately $20 million to relocate a sewer line on the site at 909 E. Michigan St. ($2 million) and build the base of the tower ($17.5 million).
Milwaukee County maintains a clawback provision on the two-acre site, which it sold for $500,000, if the project does not advance.
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Related Legislation: File 190352
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Barrett, Officials Celebrate Couture Groundbreaking - Jeramey Jannene - Jun 16th, 2021
- City Hall: City Could Spend $100,000 To Argue Over $100,000 - Jeramey Jannene - Jun 8th, 2021
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Construction Starts on The Couture - Jeramey Jannene - May 11th, 2021
- Eyes on Milwaukee: A County Opinion on City Legal Dispute? - Jeramey Jannene - May 10th, 2021
- Eyes on Milwaukee: The Couture Construction Begins May 5th - Jeramey Jannene - May 3rd, 2021
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Approves New Deal for The Couture - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 19th, 2021
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Deal on The Couture Pending - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 18th, 2021
- Eyes on Milwaukee: City Attorney Blocking The Couture - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 17th, 2021
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Couture Plans August 2023 Completion - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 8th, 2020
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Couture to Start Construction in January - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 23rd, 2020
Read more about Couture here
For more project details, including the project timeline, financing, route and possible extensions, see our extensive past coverage.
- Transportation: Southside Streetcar Study, Street Improvements Approved - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 20th, 2021
- Transportation: City Proposes Study of Streetcar to Walker’s Point - Jeramey Jannene - Jul 8th, 2021
- Transportation: First Streetcar Smart Kiosks Installed - Jeramey Jannene - Apr 3rd, 2021
- Plats and Parcels: Lakefront Streetcar Extension Scheduled for June 2022 Opening - Jeramey Jannene - Dec 6th, 2020
- Transportation: Should Milwaukee Stop The Hop? - Jeramey Jannene - Oct 13th, 2020
- Transportation: The Hop Now Wears a Mask - Jeramey Jannene - Aug 18th, 2020
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Is A Couture Deal Finally Coming? - Jeramey Jannene - May 13th, 2020
- Transportation: SUV Driver Runs Into The Hop - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 28th, 2020
- Transportation: Streetcar Kiosks Could Bring In $500,000 Annually - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 20th, 2020
- Thanks A Million, Hop Riders! - The Hop - Feb 19th, 2020
Read more about Milwaukee Streetcar here