Couture developer won’t comment on talk show host report saying project has finally secured financing

Long-awaited $122 million high-rise would go up Milwaukee lakefront site

The Couture
A rendering of The Couture, courtesy of Rinka.

Last updated on March 17th, 2020 at 01:33 pm

The developer for The Couture, the long-delayed 44-story luxury residential tower planned at the lakefront in downtown Milwaukee, declined to comment today on a tweet Tuesday by talk show host Mark Belling that says the project has finally secured its financing.

“EXCLUSIVE: Finally! Financing finally complete for Couture. Developer Rick Barrett gets $31 million today in deal underwritten by Baird,” Belling, of WISN-AM 1130 tweeted Tuesday night. Belling posted a more detailed report today.

“I can neither confirm nor deny,” said Barrett, the co-owner and founder of Barrett Lo Visionary Development (the development firm that is planning The Couture), when reached today by BizTimes Milwaukee. He said his firm is still “working really hard” on the Couture project.

The Couture is a $122 million development planned for the southwest corner of Michigan Street and Lincoln Memorial Drive. Barrett has been working for months to secure the last bit of needed financing for the project before resubmitting an application for a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

A spokesperson representing Barrett Lo said while there is no news to share today, there could be an announcement on the project within the next few weeks.

Officials at the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County similarly declined to comment.

“The only thing I can say is we remain optimistic (in the project),” said Milwaukee Department of City Development spokesman Jeff Fleming. “Beyond that, we have no other information to share.”

Aaron Hertzberg, Milwaukee County economic development director said he had no comment. He noted that the county regularly receives updates on the project from Barrett, but said the information provided in those talks should remain between the two.

A HUD spokeswoman said that Barrett Lo has not submitted anything formal on its application for the loan guarantee. She added that the department is in regular conversations with the developer, and most recently received an update on the project last week.

Barrett first unveiled plans for The Couture back in 2012, which would be constructed at the site of the former county Downtown Transit Center. The project has faced a number of challenges since then, including a years-long battle over the development rights of the site, and the project has not gained sufficient financing to move forward.

In November 2018, the project seemingly hit a milestone when Barrett announced that HUD had asked his firm to submit additional information for its loan guarantee application. But after several extensions, his firm allowed the HUD application deadline to expire as he sought to secure the last bit of equity on the project.

To assist Barrett Lo in those efforts, Barrett hired Milwaukee-based R.W. Baird & Co. Inc. to seek out investors. A spokesperson for Baird could not be reached today for comment.

Barrett told a group of County Board Supervisors this summer that one of the challenges the project faces is its sheer size. If constructed, it would be the tallest residential building in the state.

This fall, Barrett Lo paid more than $400,000 in delinquent property taxes on The Couture site. Belling was also the first to report that the firm was delinquent in paying those taxes.

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Alex Zank, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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