Construction work for The Couture to begin Wednesday

Developers closed on HUD-backed loan Friday

View from N Lincoln Memorial Drive and E Michigan St. Rendering: Rinka
Rendering of The Couture from North Lincoln Memorial Drive and East Michigan Street.

Last updated on May 7th, 2021 at 02:58 pm

Nearly nine years since the project was first proposed, the developers behind the long-awaited Couture project in downtown Milwaukee say they have closed on a $104.7 million loan and will begin construction on Wednesday.

The Section 220 FHA loan closed on Friday, Milwaukee-based Barrett Lo Visionary Development confirmed Monday. The loan is backed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Couture is a 44-story apartment tower proposed for 909 E. Michigan St. Madison-based J.H. Findorff & Son Inc. is managing construction, and Milwaukee-based Rinka is the project architect.

Site work will begin this week, according to a news release. Vertical construction is slated to start early next year, with completion anticipated in fall 2023.

“We are thrilled to have closed on the site and to enable the Findorff team to begin construction work for the Couture, a transformational project for our community,” Rick Barrett, founder and chief executive of Barrett Lo, said in a statement. “I want to thank (HUD), the city of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, and all of the partners who have worked so hard alongside us to ensure that this important project has been able to move forward.”

HUD spokesperson Gina Rodriguez said the loan is the largest FHA loan amount HUD has executed in Wisconsin, and the largest for HUD’s Midwest region since 2000.

The Couture is estimated to create demand for 4,400 construction workers and, once completed, create around 200 permanent jobs.

By far its largest source of financing is the mortgage from Jones Lang LaSalle Multifamily LLC. That loan, originally announced to be $103.5 million, was approved for a HUD guarantee in November.

Other funding sources include investor equity and tax incremental financing from the city of Milwaukee. The city assistance is specifically for infrastructure work and construction of a public transit center.

The transportation hub will serve the Hop streetcar and Milwaukee County’s future bus rapid-transit system. It will also incorporate pedestrian walkways and bridges.

“The Couture will serve as a model for transit-oriented development that will change our skyline and our economy through an infusion of well-paying construction jobs at a time when they are needed more than ever,” Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley said in a statement.

Barrett announced in June he had secured the remaining equity needed to reapply for the HUD loan guarantee. Barrett Lo’s first application for a loan guarantee lapsed because the project didn’t have enough equity.

The Couture was first proposed in 2012 and has overcome a number of obstacles. The most recent roadblock came from City Hall this spring, when the city attorney initially refused to sign an updated project development agreement. City leaders quickly sorted out the dispute.

“To reach this juncture, a lot of hard work has been done by the developer and by all the government agencies involved,” Mayor Tom Barrett said in a statement. “The Couture will add to our economy and create jobs; it will increase transportation connectivity; and it will change our skyline. The Couture is a great addition to Milwaukee.”

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