Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

The Couture Developer Secures Financing

No construction date announced, but private financing commitment marks major milestone.

By - Jun 26th, 2020 12:34 pm
The Couture. Rendering by RINKA.

The Couture. Rendering by RINKA.

Barrett Lo Visionary Development has crossed a major milestone for the The Couture. The firm has secured the necessary private financing commitments to advance the 44-story, $122 million apartment tower according to a statement from developer Rick Barrett.

“Earlier this month, we secured the equity funding needed to advance the project and resubmitted our project to [the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development]. This week, we received a formal invitation letter from HUD and look forward to working closely with them as they review the project,” said Barrett in a statement.

The developer received a similar invitation, a precursor to receiving a federal loan guarantee, in November 2018, but sources indicate the project equity requirements were increased necessitating more fundraising.

Barrett Lo received a federal loan guarantee to build The Moderne, a 30-story apartment and condominium tower near Fiserv Forum.

The Couture is planned to include over 300 apartments and 40,000 square feet of commercial space. It would be located on a two-acre site between the U.S. Bank Center and lakefront festival grounds.

“We believe the City and County deserve an extraordinary building on this extraordinary site. We are not willing to settle for less for the community we love. As we have said throughout this process, we are working tirelessly to make this iconic, transformative building a reality,” said Barrett.

The developer, 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.

RINKA is leading the tower’s design. Robert W. Baird & Co. joined the project to assist with raising additional equity.

The long-delayed project has caused an extension of The Hop, which would run through its base, to also be delayed. Common Council members have pushed for the city to find an alternative solution to the project, but Department of City Development officials pushed back multiple times saying progress was happening on The Couture.

On May 13th, a Department of City Development official said to hold off until late June before issuing legislative action. “We believe late June we will have an announcement,” said Lori Lutzka, DCD special projects manager.

Rick Barrett said in May 2019 he was working to raise the remaining $15 million in equity needed to fulfill a federal requirement to access a loan guarantee. As of November 2018 it was reported he had raised $25 million already.

The city has 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 tower was first proposed in response to a county request-for-qualifications process in 2012.


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Categories: Real Estate

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