County supervisors meet with Barrett to discuss The Couture

Developer seeks to alleviate concerns with project's status

Rick Barrett, the founder and chief executive officer of Barrett Lo Visionary Development, met with two members of the Milwaukee County Board last week following concerns they raised about how long The Couture project planned for downtown Milwaukee’s lakefront is taking to get going.

Rendering of The Couture

Barrett Lo plans to build The Couture, a 44-story luxury apartment tower, at the former Downtown Milwaukee Transit Center site southwest of Michigan Street and Lincoln Memorial Drive. First unveiled in 2012, it took years for Barrett Lo to win a legal battle to develop the site and the firm is still trying to secure financing for the project.

During the Milwaukee County Economic and Community Development Committee meeting on Sept. 10, Supervisor John Weishan said he has supported The Couture project from day one, but did not think it would take nearly a decade to build. Weishan even suggested the county find a new developer for the project.

“This is too valuable of a site for the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County to waste a decade trying to get its act together,” Weishan said.

Committee chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson made similar comments, echoing Weishan’s frustration.

Both supervisors later met with Barrett last week to discuss the status of The Couture.

Weishan said after meeting with Barrett, he feels The Couture is moving in the right direction.

“I did see his presentation and it was a lot of stuff we had seen before over the years, but I think we are at a point where we have to wait and see how certain things turn out,” Weishan said. “After speaking with Mr. Barrett, I got what I thought an appropriate update on the project. I wasn’t given any real timeline, but I’m confident they are working on the project and doing everything they can on their end.”

Nicholson could not be reached for comment.

Rick Barrett

Barrett said after having a “meaningful and thoughtful conversation” at his office, he felt the county board supervisors’ perspectives had changed. He said it was important to alleviate their concerns.

“We have quite a few (apartment) reservations and people have put money down,” Barrett said. “Those statements being made by public officials are detrimental to the project. We are trying to push a rock up a hill and are all on the same team to put up a great project that is signature for the city.”

The Couture, which is planned at 909 E. Michigan St., would have 322 high-end apartments. The project also includes 50,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, more than 900 parking spaces and a multi-modal transit hub that will include stops for the streetcar and bus rapid transit.

“High rise development is very, very difficult in Milwaukee,” Barrett said. “But we have an outstanding team prepared to build this project. We have done it before and we are going to do it again.”

The Couture would include 322 apartments and be a multi-modal transit hub.

In April, Rocky Marcoux, commissioner for the Department of City Development, told a city committee The Couture would break ground in October 2018. The groundbreaking will not happen next month, but in an interview Monday with BizTimes, Barrett said his firm continues to work hard on the project. He said construction permits for The Couture are ready to be pulled as soon as his financing is locked in.

In December 2017, Barrett Lo Visionary Development submitted an application for a loan guarantee for The Couture from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A HUD spokeswoman said this month the matter is still under review.

Barrett said he could not comment on the status of the HUD application.

Barrett said he has been working to secure financing for the project through private investors. This summer, he also sold a site in Chicago for $9.4 million where his firm had been planning a mixed-use development. Barrett said on Monday that all of the money from the sale of the Chicago property will be used on The Couture project.

Rick Barrett, the founder and chief executive officer of Barrett Lo Visionary Development, met with two members of the Milwaukee County Board last week following concerns they raised about how long The Couture project planned for downtown Milwaukee’s lakefront is taking to get going.

Rendering of The Couture

Barrett Lo plans to build The Couture, a 44-story luxury apartment tower, at the former Downtown Milwaukee Transit Center site southwest of Michigan Street and Lincoln Memorial Drive. First unveiled in 2012, it took years for Barrett Lo to win a legal battle to develop the site and the firm is still trying to secure financing for the project.

During the Milwaukee County Economic and Community Development Committee meeting on Sept. 10, Supervisor John Weishan said he has supported The Couture project from day one, but did not think it would take nearly a decade to build. Weishan even suggested the county find a new developer for the project.

“This is too valuable of a site for the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County to waste a decade trying to get its act together,” Weishan said.

Committee chairwoman Marcelia Nicholson made similar comments, echoing Weishan’s frustration.

Both supervisors later met with Barrett last week to discuss the status of The Couture.

Weishan said after meeting with Barrett, he feels The Couture is moving in the right direction.

“I did see his presentation and it was a lot of stuff we had seen before over the years, but I think we are at a point where we have to wait and see how certain things turn out,” Weishan said. “After speaking with Mr. Barrett, I got what I thought an appropriate update on the project. I wasn’t given any real timeline, but I’m confident they are working on the project and doing everything they can on their end.”

Nicholson could not be reached for comment.

Rick Barrett

Barrett said after having a “meaningful and thoughtful conversation” at his office, he felt the county board supervisors’ perspectives had changed. He said it was important to alleviate their concerns.

“We have quite a few (apartment) reservations and people have put money down,” Barrett said. “Those statements being made by public officials are detrimental to the project. We are trying to push a rock up a hill and are all on the same team to put up a great project that is signature for the city.”

The Couture, which is planned at 909 E. Michigan St., would have 322 high-end apartments. The project also includes 50,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, more than 900 parking spaces and a multi-modal transit hub that will include stops for the streetcar and bus rapid transit.

“High rise development is very, very difficult in Milwaukee,” Barrett said. “But we have an outstanding team prepared to build this project. We have done it before and we are going to do it again.”

The Couture would include 322 apartments and be a multi-modal transit hub.

In April, Rocky Marcoux, commissioner for the Department of City Development, told a city committee The Couture would break ground in October 2018. The groundbreaking will not happen next month, but in an interview Monday with BizTimes, Barrett said his firm continues to work hard on the project. He said construction permits for The Couture are ready to be pulled as soon as his financing is locked in.

In December 2017, Barrett Lo Visionary Development submitted an application for a loan guarantee for The Couture from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A HUD spokeswoman said this month the matter is still under review.

Barrett said he could not comment on the status of the HUD application.

Barrett said he has been working to secure financing for the project through private investors. This summer, he also sold a site in Chicago for $9.4 million where his firm had been planning a mixed-use development. Barrett said on Monday that all of the money from the sale of the Chicago property will be used on The Couture project.

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