Developer for The Couture is delinquent on property taxes for project site

Says it was "an oversight"

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An affiliate of Barrett Lo Visionary Development, the real estate development firm that has been planning to build The Couture, a proposed 44-story luxury apartment tower near the lakefront in downtown Milwaukee, is delinquent in paying its property taxes for the site, according to information from the city Treasurer’s Office.

As of Wednesday, the firm owes $401,559.11 in property taxes for the site. Its tax payment of $353,796.57 was due on Jan. 31 and it has been charged $47,762.54 in interest since then.

News of the property tax delinquency for the Couture site was first reported by WISN-AM 1130 radio show host Mark Belling.

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In a statement, Barrett Lo Visionary Development described the property tax delinquency for the site “an oversight.”

“It was an oversight on our part that we were made aware of on Friday,” the statement from the company said. “We will be in touch with the city to promptly complete payment, just as we do for the millions of dollars in property tax that we pay for our other real estate investments.”

When reached Wednesday by BizTimes Milwaukee, and asked when the tax payment would be made, Barrett Lo founder and chief executive Rick Barrett said, “we’re working on it right now.”

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The Couture, a $122 million project, would include 322 luxury apartments, restaurants, retail space and a transit hub, including a stop for the Milwaukee streetcar.

First unveiled in 2012, The Couture project has faced numerous delays, starting with a years-long fight over the development rights of the site, located southwest of Michigan Street and Lincoln Memorial Drive.

The site was formerly occupied by the county’s Downtown Transit Center. County officials wanted that underutilized facility replaced with a private development and issued a request for proposals from developers. Barrett’s project, The Couture, was selected.

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After the battle over the development rights for the site was finally settled, Barrett Lo acquired the property from the county in 2016.

The former Downtown Transit Center building was torn down. However, Barrett Lo has not been able to obtain the necessary financing to build The Couture, and the site remains vacant.

If completed, The Couture project is set to receive $17.5 million from the city through tax incremental financing. That money would go toward public improvements such as the public transit hub, walkways, pedestrian amenities and publicly accessible plazas, according to city documents.

Barrett Lo sought a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development loan guarantee for financing the project. The firm also used a HUD loan guarantee to build The Moderne, a 30-story luxury residential building near Fiserv Forum in downtown Milwaukee. Barrett Lo still owns The Moderne.

The Couture project reached what Barrett described as a “major milestone” in November, after HUD asked the developer to submit additional information for its loan guarantee application. This signaled the project could have soon moved forward with its needed financing.

But in July, Barrett Lo said it would not meet its deadline to submit a final application for the HUD loan guarantee, but is still working to secure its final piece of financing needed to move forward with the project.

Barrett Lo said it is now working with is Milwaukee-based R.W. Baird & Co. Inc. to help secure the last bit of financing needed for the project. Barrett has said publicly that his firm needs to secure $15 million in financing to get construction going for The Couture.

When asked by BizTimes on Wednesday for an update on efforts to obtain the final financing for The Couture, Barrett said, “We’re working on it. We’re doing really well.”

Construction work recently began for the second phase of Barrett Lo’s Emerald Row apartment complex development at Drexel Town Square in Oak Creek.

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