Barrett Lo has sold its Chicago site

Plans to use proceeds to help finance The Couture

A rendering of Blanc Chicago.

Last updated on October 11th, 2019 at 03:33 pm

This summer, an affiliate of Milwaukee-based real estate development firm Barrett Lo Visionary Development sold its property in Chicago where it had planned to build a 12-story building.

The property, located at 612 N. Wells St. in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, was the longtime home of Carson’s Ribs, which moved earlier this year to the Streeterville neighborhood in Chicago, near Navy Pier.

The Wells Street property consists of a single-story building that was occupied by Carson’s and a parking lot. The property was purchased by Barrett Lo in 2011 for $4.6 million, according to Cook County records. The development firm bought the property with cash, said Barrett Lo founder and chief executive officer Rick Barrett.

Barrett Lo planned to build The Blanc, a 12-story building with 40 condominiums and ground floor retail and restaurant space, on the Wells Street site. But after working on the project for several years, the firm decided to scrap those plans.

In July, Barrett Lo sold the property to an affiliate of Chicago-based commercial real estate firm Northpond Partners for $9.4 million, according to Cook County records.

Barrett said his firm plans to use the proceeds of the sale of the Chicago property as equity to help finance The Couture, the 44-story, 322-unit luxury apartment tower that Barrett Lo has been working on for several years at the former Milwaukee County Downtown Transit Center site southwest of Michigan Street and Lincoln Memorial Drive on the downtown Milwaukee lakefront. In addition to the apartments, plans for The Couture include 50,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, more than 900 parking spaces and a transit hub with streetcar and bus rapid transit stops.

Rendering of The Couture.

“We wanted to galvanize and strengthen our position here in Milwaukee,” Barrett said. “We probably could have put our project in play (in Chicago), but we decided we wanted to focus on our two big (projects) in Milwaukee and the Milwaukee metro…We’re bullish on Milwaukee and its future. We had a tremendous opportunity to realize those significant gains from our investment in Chicago. We’re thrilled to be able to bring those proceeds back from Chicago to reinvest in our hometown.”

In addition to The Couture, Barrett Lo is planning a second phase to Emerald Row, its apartment development at Drexel Town Square in Oak Creek.

At one time the cost estimate for The Couture project was $120 million. Barrett Lo is seeking a loan guarantee for the project from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The application for the HUD loan guarantee was submitted in December.

Barrett Lo also used a HUD loan guarantee to help finance The Moderne, the $55 million, 30-story apartment and condo tower it completed in 2012 at the southwest corner of Old World Third Street and Juneau Avenue in downtown Milwaukee. The Moderne has 203 apartments, 16 condos and also is the home of the Milwaukee location for Carson’s Ribs. All of the condos at The Moderne have been sold and the apartments are 95 percent leased, Barrett said.

Barrett said he could not comment on the status of the HUD loan guarantee application process for The Couture.

A spokesperson for HUD said the application for the loan guarantee for The Couture is still under review.

Barrett expressed confidence that the long-delayed Couture project, which was unveiled to the public in 2012, will get done.

“High-rise development is very, very difficult in Milwaukee,” he said. “I think we have an outstanding team to build this project. We’ve done it before (with The Moderne), and we’re going to do it again.”

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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