‘A surreal moment’: Scenes from The Couture groundbreaking ceremony

Construction commenced in May

Construction underway at The Couture site
Construction underway at The Couture site

Last updated on June 18th, 2021 at 12:10 pm

With construction of the high-profile Couture project nearly a decade in the making, many may have expected the gold-shovel treatment the moment the project broke ground in early May.

But an official ceremony with every dignitary imaginable did not come until mid-June, when site work was very much underway.

Construction equipment and activity at The Couture site, 909 E. Michigan St. downtown Milwaukee, served as a live backdrop for Wednesday afternoon’s groundbreaking ceremony.

The Couture will be a $188 million, 44-story apartment tower, which now under construction near the Lake Michigan lakefront. After overcoming numerous obstacles, Milwaukee-based project developer Barrett Lo Visionary Development secured a key U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development loan guarantee in November and closed on project financing earlier this year.

“There was never a doubt,” Mayor Tom Barrett said at the ceremony, in reference to the number of people who doubted that The Couture would ever reach construction. “And I say that with all sincerity, because as every person knows, there were doubters, there were non-believers, there were naysayers, there were haters, but there also were believers. And more important than believers, there were dreamers.”

The person who dreamed up the project was Rick Barrett, founder and chief executive of Barrett Lo. He and the mayor are not related. Rick Barrett said the ceremony was a “surreal moment” for him.

“Skyscrapers breathe a rarified air,” he said, “and are the most symbolic buildings that human beings make.”

First proposed in 2012, The Couture is to contain 322 residential units, roughly 50,000 square feet of retail space and a public transit center. It is also to include some additional public space, including pedestrian walkways that will connect The Couture to lakefront attractions.

Vertical construction is slated to begin early next year. The project has an anticipated completion of fall 2023.

“Together we add The Couture as another symbol of progress, sending a message to other markets that we, Milwaukee, have arrived,” Rick Barrett said. “We have swagger, we have city vibe, and most importantly, we in Milwaukee can compete to be great on the national scene with anyone, anytime.”

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Alex Zank, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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