As part of the latest change to The Couture's development agreement with the city of Milwaukee, the project developer has agreed to contribute $100,000 to the city's anti-displacement fund.
The Couture is a proposed $188 million, 44-story luxury apartment tower planned for 909 E. Michigan St., near the downtown Milwaukee lakefront.
First proposed in 2012, The Couture has been delayed numerous times, but could finally be ready to begin construction. Milwaukee-based Barrett-Lo Visionary Development aims to close on project financing and break ground in the coming weeks.
Before that, city leaders must approve what perhaps will be the final change to its development agreement with Barrett-Lo. The change stipulates the firm will cover $1.4 million in unspent federal grant money that is going toward The Couture's public transit center component. The city could be forced to pay back that money in the event a construction deadline is missed.
The $1.4 million is part of a larger $14.2 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration for the construction of The Hop streetcar's lakefront line extension. The line is to loop through The Couture's transit station.
Alderman Robert Bauman proposed the anti-displacement fund donation be added during a meeting today of the Common Council's Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee.
The $100,000 is to be paid by one or both of Barrett-Lo's principals, Rick Barrett and Tan Lo, at time of closing, according to the amended agreement.
Committee members approved the proposal, which next heads to the full Common Council.
"The bottom line is, we were approached to make a last-minute change in the deal on the eve of closing, and I think it's appropriate that through the course of negotiation that the developer provide a little additional incentive for us to basically bail this deal out at the last minute because the equity investors objected to the potential liability for any of the (federal) grant funding," Bauman said.
Barrett-Lo agreed to the donation prior to the committee meeting.
"We are grateful for the support of the city and members of ZND (Committee) as we work to advance this transformational project for Milwaukee," Barrett, who is founder and chief executive of Barrett-Lo, said in a statement following the committee meeting. "Today’s legislation enables us to provide a personal guaranty to cover liability associated with the TIGER grant funds invested in the site."
Barrett also said his firm was "proud" to be contributing to the anti-displacement fund and its efforts to support homeowners.
The anti-displacement fund is administered by MKE United. It provides property tax relief to homeowners residing in certain city neighborhoods who experiencing rising taxes due to nearby development.
Barrett-Lo in November secured a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on its $103.5 million mortgage, which is The Couture’s primary source of financing.
That guarantee put the project on track for an early 2021 groundbreaking. It was to start by Feb. 1, but the last-minute negotiations over liability of the grant funding pushed back the financing closing date.