Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

The Couture Completion Delayed Until End of 2023

But tower crane installed and pile driving progressing.

By - Feb 3rd, 2022 06:07 pm
The Couture construction. Photo from Findorff.

The Couture construction. Photo from Findorff.

Construction work is progressing on The Couture, a 44-story, 322-unit apartment building that will be the tallest residential building in Wisconsin when completed. But it’s not moving at the speed it was originally planned, and that is now imperiling another project.

“We are planning to be done right about the end of 2023,” said J.H. Findorff & Son senior project manager Eric Sadler during a tour of the site Thursday morning.

The expected completion date in 2023 has gone from August to fall to now “the end.”

And while losing a few months might not seem like a big deal for a $190 million project that was first proposed in 2012, it’s jeopardizing the financing of another project.

The lakefront extension of The Hop streetcar system, which has sat partially completed since 2018, must wait for the shell of the transit concourse at the base of the tower to be completed. It was, after years of delay, supposed to begin service by June 30 as part of a financing agreement with The Couture developer Barrett Lo Visionary Development.

The streetcar line relies on a $14.2 million federal grant, for which $1.41 million is still unexpended. The grant program, created in 2015, expires on Sep. 30 and leaked emails reveal that city officials are now working on an act of Congress to bail out the repeatedly-delayed project. Barrett Lo partners Rick Barrett and Tan Lo have a personal guarantee on the unspent grant funds, but not the entire grant.

The Couture project officials haven’t said when they expect the transit concourse to be complete.

“I don’t have a great gauge for that right now,” Sadler said. A revised public financing agreement sets an Oct. 31, 2023 date, an additional 15 months, to complete the line and station so the extension can go into service. But it has yet to be formally introduced.

The project manager said construction workers have found many surprises buried in the soil, including old bottles, tools and timbers from an old breakwater. But didn’t say what caused the delay.

“I think there are a lot of things that play into it,” said Sadler. “Just challenges that come up. I don’t think there is one thing that is driving it.”

What are those challenges?

“I don’t want to get into it, sorry,” said Sadler.

Barrett was not at the tour, but a communications firm representing the developer reissued the same statement the developer issued Tuesday.

As is expected with a major construction project on a two-acre downtown site, there have been a few unforeseen conditions encountered while working below grade,” said Barrett. “In particular, we found two major discoveries that were not on the survey: more than 50 piles which needed to be identified and removed, and a major We Energies transformer serving downtown which needed to be designed around. These challenges were addressed and construction is advancing.”

Regardless of why things are late, things are moving forward.

Pile driving is expected to take another month to complete, the 2017 surprise sewer was replaced and a 175-foot-tall tower crane was installed.

That crane, operated by Craig Glover for Findorff, will eventually climb to 621 feet. The building itself is planned to reach just under 517 feet. A smaller crane is planned to be installed on the west side of the site in April.

Limited concrete work has taken place, in part to allow the pile driving to be completed, but is expected to ramp up as the pile driving is finished.

There are about 25 workers on the site daily, Sadler said, and that figure will rise into the hundreds as the tower begins to rise later this summer.

The transit concourse, which will serve the East-West Bus Rapid Transit line in addition to the streetcar, will also include approximately 45,000 square feet of commercial space.

The city is providing $19.5 million for public infrastructure costs related to the project, 909 E. Michigan St., via a tax incremental financing district.

Barrett Lo acquired the property, and the former Downtown Transit Center, from Milwaukee County for $500,000. If a public transit use is not maintained in the property, the county would need to pay $6.7 million to the Federal Transit Administration for the removal of the former bus layover facility.


Aerial Images


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4 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: The Couture Completion Delayed Until End of 2023”

  1. 45 years in the City says:

    I can understand unexpectedly discovering the antiquarian detritus, but how could they NOT know about the active WE Energy equipment?

  2. MilwMike1 says:

    What a fishy deal. Is this Milwaukee’s FoxConned?

  3. NieWiederKrieg says:

    We’re starting to see an epidemic of large buildings in the U.S. that are on the verge of collapsing due to weak, sub-standard foundations. Cutting corners or doing sub-standard work on the Couture in order to reach deadlines would be a bad idea. It would be a shame to see the Couture become another Leaning Tower of Pisa like the 58 story Millennium Tower in San Francisco.

    San Francisco’s Millennium Tower Is Tilting and Sinking. Here’s What Went Wrong…

  4. Polaris says:

    More surprises and delays for Barrett and the Couture?


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