Council Approves New Deal for The Couture
After infighting, City Hall clearing way for $188 million tower.
The Common Council, aimed at ending infighting within City Hall, unanimously adopted a revised development agreement for The Couture on Friday morning.
The 56-page agreement details the terms and timeline for how developer Barrett Lo Visionary Development is to proceed with completing the 44-story luxury apartment tower with a streetcar station in its base. The city, through tax incremental financing, is providing $19 million to build the three-story transit concourse and relocate a sewer on the site at 909 E. Michigan St.
The attorney, in multiple letters to the council, argued that the council overstepped its authority by superseding the Department of City Development and adding a $100,000 anti-displacement donation requirement for Barrett Lo to the deal. Barrett Lo, however, agreed to the provision.
The council saw leverage given that developer Rick Barrett, no relation to the mayor, failed to start construction by February 1st, as required in the December 2020 version of the agreement.
Barrett was back before the city earlier this year seeking a liability shield for his investors. The institutional investors were concerned that if the streetcar line wasn’t completed in time, the federal government would seek a refund on a portion of the $14.2 million grant given to the city to build the extension, and the city would in turn go after the investors.
The city has until summer 2022 to complete the line under a Federal Transit Administration extension.
The Department of City Development forwarded a deal to the council in February that would have Barrett and partner Tan Lo personally guarantee $1.41 million, the unspent portion of the grant, and the city waive any future claim for the remainder of the grant.
But the council, led by Alderman Robert Bauman, unanimously adopted the amendment for Barrett Lo to contribute $100,000 to the non-profit operated MKE United anti-displacement fund.
The council dug in, with Common Council President Cavalier Johnson ultimately negotiating a compromise with Spencer.
Under the latest deal, the council and Spencer will jointly select an outside attorney to review the legality of the council’s action. In the meantime, Barrett Lo will place the $100,000 into an escrow account. The funds will be refunded if the outside attorney determines the provision to be invalid, but the rest of the agreement will still be in force.
A special meeting was called for Friday morning to approve the deal.
But at the meeting, not a single member discussed the resolution. The resolution title was read into the record and the council voted. Less than 10 minutes after it started, the meeting was over.
“I believe I have made very clear my procedural and ethical concerns about the late inclusion of requiring The Couture developer to make a $100,000 donation to the Milwaukee development fund, I have not changed those concerns in any way,” wrote Spencer in a statement after the vote. “However, in light of impending financial deadlines which if missed will greatly add to the cost to the project, the city’s best interests require us to move forward or lose the opportunity to avoid these unacceptable costs.”
Barrett Lo also praised the revised agreement.
For more on the disagreement, see our article from Wednesday.
The tower was first proposed in response to a county request-for-qualifications process in 2012. The tower is being designed by RINKA and will be constructed by J.H. Findorff & Son.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is providing a loan guarantee on a $103.5 million loan to develop the project.
Under the latest agreement, Barrett Lo must begin construction by July 1st. The developer has 42 months to complete the tower once construction starts.
The streetcar extension, for which track down E. Michigan St. and E. Clybourn St. is already in the ground, must be able to be put in service by June 30th, 2022. Barrett Lo must provide the city $100,000 to hire a consultant to monitor the developer’s progress in delivering the public transit concourse. Milwaukee County‘s East-West bus rapid transit line will also use the transit concourse.
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Related Legislation: File 2015723
- Transportation: Congress Extends Streetcar Grant - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 16th, 2022
- Eyes on Milwaukee: The Couture Starts Massive Concrete Pour - Jeramey Jannene - Mar 16th, 2022
- City Hall: Council Could End Fight Over Couture Provision - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 22nd, 2022
- Eyes on Milwaukee: The Couture Completion Delayed Until End of 2023 - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 3rd, 2022
- City Needs Act of Congress Because of Couture-Streetcar Delay - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 1st, 2022
- Eyes on Milwaukee: The Couture Is Making Noise Downtown - Jeramey Jannene - Nov 22nd, 2021
- 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
Read more about Couture here