Couture groundbreaking pushed back as developer works to close on financing

$188 million project was supposed to begin by today, according to development agreements

Night view from North Lincoln Memorial Drive and East Clybourn Street. Rendering: Rinka
Night view rendering of The Couture from North Lincoln Memorial Drive and East Clybourn Street. Rendering: Rinka

Last updated on February 2nd, 2021 at 02:31 pm

The Couture, a long-planned residential tower for a site near downtown Milwaukee’s lakefront, was supposed to start construction by Feb. 1, according to the most recent deadlines and timelines for the project.

But now the groundbreaking date is being pushed back “a matter of weeks” as the developer works to close on project financing.

In a statement sent this morning, Rick Barrett, founder and chief executive of Milwaukee-based Barrett Lo Visionary Development, the development firm for The Couture, said construction work for the project will immediately commence once the financing has been closed.

“Our work on The Couture continues as planned with all parties working to finalize the required closing documents for this complicated transaction,” Barrett said in the statement. “We anticipate that we will be able to complete this process in a matter of weeks and advance the project to meet all of our key construction timelines. We’re thrilled to be able to begin construction work on this transformational project immediately upon closing.”

The Couture is a $188 million, 44-story high-rise planned for 909 E. Michigan Ave. (southwest of Michigan Avenue and Lincoln Memorial Drive). The 700,000-square-foot building will include 322 residential units, commercial space and a public transit center.

Its primary source of financing is a nearly $103.5 million mortgage from lender Jones Lang LaSalle Multifamily LLC. It is being backed by a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development loan guarantee.

The Couture was first proposed in 2012, but has hit a number of delays since then. Barrett Lo secured the loan guarantee in November, creating new momentum for a project that was long at a standstill.

Following the HUD approval, Barrett Lo sought to update its development agreements with the city and county. The new agreements stipulated that construction was to commence by today, Feb. 1, and that the project be finished no later than 42 months after work commences.

Milwaukee’s Department of City Development expressed confidence that the project will soon move forward.

“The Department of City Development has been in ongoing discussions with the developer, and we remain optimistic about the future of the project,” DCD spokesman Jeff Fleming said in an email.

Aaron Hertzberg, Milwaukee County director of economic development, said the county was hopeful the project would remain on track, despite the delay of the groundbreaking.

“We remain confident the project will move forward,” Hertzberg said in an email. “We are hopeful that the delays in finalizing the project financing doesn’t impact the delivery date for the transit concourse and the project in general.”

A HUD spokesperson declined to comment.

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Alex Zank, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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