Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Couture to Start Construction in January

Barrett Lo raises equity needed for federal loan guarantee for 44-story lakefront tower.

By - Nov 23rd, 2020 12:34 pm
The Couture. Rendering by RINKA.

The Couture. Rendering by RINKA.

Construction is expected to begin in January 2021 on The Couture, a 44-story apartment tower on Milwaukee’s lakefront.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Monday morning that it was awarding a commitment for a $103.5 million loan guarantee to Barrett Lo Visionary Development.

“HUD’s Firm Commitment marks the final financial commitment required for us to begin construction on The Couture,” said developer Rick Barrett in a statement.

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.

The firm announced in June that it had raised the necessary equity to advance the deal and was reapplying for the loan guarantee. The initial application for the loan guarantee commitment was first awarded in 2018, but the developer could not amass the necessary equity to access the guarantee.

As of November 2018 it was reported that Barrett had raised $25 million of the equity needed to access the federal loan guarantee. The developer said in May 2019 he was working to raise the remaining $15 million in equity required.

Barrett Lo, whose leader is 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. The city has received the necessary extension on a federal funding commitment to delay the streetcar extension’s opening. A city official estimated earlier this month that it would open in mid-2022 at the earliest if construction were to begin on the building in January.

The city has agreed to contribute $17.5 million to The Couture 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.

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


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2 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Couture to Start Construction in January”

  1. RadioWires says:

    Are they still including 1100 parking spots? Hopefully they reconsider that part because that is way too many for smack dab in the middle of downtown but regardless very excited it’s moving forward!

  2. just1paul says:

    The middle of downtown? The Lakefront is the middle of downtown?

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