Jeramey Jannene
Friday Photos

Streetcar Rolling Through Rising Couture

Lakefront tower now stands 15 stories tall, while streetcar connection is built out in base.

By - Jun 2nd, 2023 04:51 pm
The Couture and the Milwaukee skyline. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Couture and the Milwaukee skyline. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Construction work on The Couture, a 44-story apartment tower, is now progressing at a steady clip.

The $190 million building, which appears to have reached its 15th floor, is now visible from many streets Downtown and the Historic Third Ward. And work on the streetcar extension through its base is now moving.

The completed building will include 322 high-end apartments starting from the fifth floor. The first three floors of the building will include a public amenity concourse with 42,000 square feet of commercial space suitable for multiple restaurants. A resident amenity level, which includes an outdoor pool, will be located on the fourth floor. The oversized nature of those first floors is now visible, with the residential floors above exhibiting a more conventional height.

Location, both to the lakefront just to the east and to the cluster of downtown office buildings immediately to The Couture’s west, will be a key selling point in the building’s leasing strategy.

“The Couture is in a pinnacle location in the city,” said developer Rick Barrett during a March tour of the building, then at its 5th floor. “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.”

An extension of The Hop, first approved in 2015, and the eastern terminus of the Milwaukee County Transit System‘s Connect 1 bus rapid transit line will be located in the building’s base. Kiewit Infrastructure, the city’s streetcar contractor, has now built much of what it calls the guideway (track) through the building’s base. Streetcars will run east down E. Michigan St. before turning into the station in the base of the building and existing westbound on E. Clybourn St. Earlier project delays forced the city to secure an act of Congress to extend a federal grant that pays for the line. A 2022 schedule calls for the line to enter service by September. Much of the extension was completed alongside the initial line in 2018, but sat idle while Barrett Lo Visionary Development worked out the financing package for the tower.

The bus rapid transit system starts service on Sunday. But its nine-mile route will terminate a few blocks northwest at E. Wisconsin Ave. and N. Van Buren St. until The Couture station is built out.

A parking structure west of the tower’s base continues to rise. A large, curved LED screen will be installed on its eastern facade facing the concourse. 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, but for now transit riders or residents heading to Summerfest will need to walk across the N. Lincoln Memorial Dr.

General contractor J.H. Findorff & Son‘s tower crane continues to get plenty of use as it climbs higher, making the large company sign on it an even more clever billboard clearly visible to those crossing the Hoan Bridge.

A temporary roof is planned for the 25th floor, allowing the lower floors to be completed and opened to residents before the entire building is finished. During a March tour of the complex, developer Rick Barrett said model units could open in late summer or early fall, with move-in dates available shortly thereafter

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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2 thoughts on “Friday Photos: Streetcar Rolling Through Rising Couture”

  1. Mingus says:

    It took Rick Barrett years to put all of the piece together for such a major apartment tower on one of the most prime 2.2 acres on the western shore of Lake Michigan. I hope he has the skill set to finish this project to the standards of a prime lakefront building. I am always amused by so many “can’t miss” construction projects that have the developers coming to local governments for a taxpayer funded handout. If these projects are so good, why do local governments for help with financing?

  2. BigRed81 says:

    Between the low purchase price and tax breaks, the City is giving away $135 Million. Yet, the developers will make Billions in Profits! “Corporate Welfare” is immoral
    Couture will be the most expensive multi-unit dwelling in the state & amoung the Midwest.

    IAll that while, nvestment in housing for the Working Poor is abysmall.

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