Barrett drops hotel from The Couture plans

Developer Rick Barrett, the owner of Barrett Visionary Development, said this week that he has dropped plans for a hotel in the 44-story The Couture development that he plans to build near the lakefront in downtown Milwaukee.

The original plans for the project included 179 upscale apartments, a 180-room hotel and retail space.

Barrett said he has eliminated the hotel component to simplify the project. The change means the building will have 294 apartments. The rest of the project, including its 44-story height, remains unchanged, he said.

Barrett also built the 30-story Moderne tower at Old World Third Street and Juneau Avenue. That building, completed in 2012, has 203 apartments, 14 condominiums and a a first floor restaurant. The apartments at The Moderne are 100 percent leased, Barrett said this week. He said that gives him confidence that the downtown apartment market is strong enough to absorb more apatments at The Couture.

“(The apartment leasing at The Moderne) is above and beyond what I expected there,” Barrett said. “That gives me huge confidence.”

The Couture would be built on the site of Milwaukee County Downtown Transit Center, a bus transfer and storage facility, located southwest of Lincoln Memorial Drive and East Michigan Street. The project has been opposed by parks advocacy group Preserve Our Parks, which has arguded that most of the site was originally in the Lake Michigan lake bed and therefore private development there is forbidden by the state’s public trust doctrine. Last year Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill passed by the Legislature that clarified that the site is not subject to the public trust doctrine.

However, Barrett and county officials are still waiting to obtain title for the site. Then a deal to sell the site to Barrett can be completed.

Barrett still hopes to begin construction for The Couture in 2015.

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