Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

See Inside The Couture’s Rise

Floors being poured on 5th level, while building core reaches 11th floor, 25% of final height.

By - Mar 9th, 2023 03:27 pm
The Couture rises in front of the downtown office towers. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Couture rises in front of three downtown office towers. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Couture is climbing and the first residents could move into the lower half of the 44-story luxury apartment tower later this year.

Developer Rick Barrett and general contractor J.H. Findorff & Son showed off progress on the $190 million building Thursday morning.

Concrete pouring on the building, 909 E. Michigan St., has reached the fifth floor, and should now progress at about one floor per week until the building tops out this fall at approximately 520 feet tall.

“I think we’re in a rhythm,” said Barrett of the visible progress. “Things are all going to come together quickly. I think will be shocked at how fast what you’re seeing right now versus what you’re going to see at the end of the summer.”

The elevator core and stairwell is already at the 11th floor.

A temporary roof is planned for the 25th floor, which would allow the lower floors to be completed and opened to residents before the entire building is finished. Model units could open in late summer or early fall, with move-in dates available shortly thereafter, said Barrett, the head of Barrett Lo Visionary Development. The completed building will include 322 apartments.

Apartments start on the fifth floor of the building. A resident amenity level, which includes an outdoor pool, will be located on the fourth floor.

Barrett said he wasn’t surprised to see other apartment towers be proposed once The Couture got started. “What do tall buildings like? They like other tall buildings,” said the developer. “It looks like a really growing, evolving city. And that to me the essence of what this building is all about.”

Barrett Lo developed the 30-story The Moderne tower in 2012. It’s located on the edge of what is now called the Deer District neighborhood. The Couture’s lakefront site and proximity to the downtown office towers will help it stand out from a growing number of planned apartment towers.

“The Couture is in a pinnacle location in the city,” said the developer. “It’s the first 40-story building built in 40 years and it’s a true skyscraper. It has dominant, commanding lake views. It has an incredible amount of retail that will be very powerful for people living within the building. I think the transit [accessibility] makes it really attractive… The Couture is the last building I would want to compete with.”

An announcement on the streetcar extension, which will run through the base of the building, is expected in the coming weeks. The concrete structure of the three-level public concourse, which includes 42,000 square feet of commercial space, has been completed.

Barrett and Findorff senior project manager Eric Sadler said planning was in advanced stages to allow streetcar contractor Kiewit Infrastructure to build the track through the building’s base. Earlier project delays forced the city to secure an act of Congress to extend a federal grant that pays for the line. With those issues now in the past, Barrett said “a good plan is in place” to deliver the streetcar according to the 2022 schedule that would have the line start service in September.

Milwaukee County’s Connect bus rapid transit line will also use the concourse and Barrett said he hopes it becomes a well-used transit point to get to lakefront festivals.

Barrett said he expects commercial leasing interest to grow as the building nears completion and because prospective tenants will be able to stand in their future space. “We’re working with multiple restaurants right now,” said the developer. He said the space could be divided in a number of ways.

There are about 100 construction workers on site daily said Sadler. That figure will continue to grow as trades workers begin following the concrete finishers up the tower.

A parking structure on the west side of the site will continue to climb as well, with a large LED screen to be installed on its eastern facade. Barrett said it will be used for advertising as well as for transit wayfinding. The second level of the concourse, as designed by building architect RINKA, could eventually include pedestrian bridges to the north, east and south. The city is working to secure funds to complete the Lakefront Gateway Plaza to the east.

Concrete work on a two-level, underground parking structure has been completed.

The city is providing $19.5 million via a tax incremental financing district pay for the transit terminal and relocating a sewer. A $104.7 million construction loan from Old National Bank is the primary financing source. The AFL-CIO’s Housing Investment Trust is a major investor in the union-built project. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is providing a loan guarantee, the largest it has provided in the Midwest since 2000.

Barrett Lo acquired the 2.2-acre site in 2016 for $500,000 from Milwaukee County. The discounted cost came because Barrett Lo agreed to preserve a transit use at what was the Downtown Transit Center after demolishing the facility, or it would need to pay back a federal grant of approximately $6 million.



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More about the Couture

Read more about Couture here

2 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: See Inside The Couture’s Rise”

  1. Polaris says:

    It absolutely DID require an “act of Congress” to get the Couture built! 🙂 And we’re not done, yet…

  2. schultzmeier says:

    Looking at the renderings of the Couture it appears that in the 6th rendering there is a bank of very bright lights that will project out over Lake Michigan.
    My concerns are : Is this legal ? …..will this interfere with any type of navigation or bird migration ?
    Do we want or need more light pollution ?

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