Developer for The Couture pays delinquent property taxes for project site

Delivers check for $401,559.11 to City Hall

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

Barrett Lo Visionary Development, the real estate development firm that has been working for years to build a 44-story luxury apartment building at a site near the lakefront in downtown Milwaukee, on Friday paid its delinquent property tax bill for the site, the city Treasurer’s Office confirmed.

“Earlier this afternoon, we delivered a check for $401,559.11 to City Hall, bringing our property tax payments for The Couture up to date,” the firm said in a news release. “We are continuing to invest in The Couture and fully committed to ensuring that this transformational project for Milwaukee’s lakefront moves forward, generating millions more in tax base in the coming years.”

Barrett Lo’s tax bill of $353,796.57 for the site, located at 909 E. Michigan St., was due on Jan. 31 The firm has been charged $47,762.54 in interest since then, bringing the total amount owed to $401,559.11.

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

In a statement issued earlier this week, Barrett Lo described the property tax delinquency for the site as “an oversight.”

“It was an oversight on our part that we were made aware of on (Oct. 4),” the statement said.

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.

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.

Last year, Barrett Lo sold a site in Chicago, which it had purchased in 2011 for $4.6 million with plans to build a 12-story condo building that never moved forward, for $9.4 million. Barrett said his firm plans to use the proceeds of the sale of the Chicago property as equity to help finance The Couture.

In addition, Barrett Lo sought a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development loan guarantee for financing The Couture 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 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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Andrew Weiland
Andrew Weiland is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, Weiland is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, and son, Zachary. He is an avid sports fan and enjoys coaching his son’s youth baseball and basketball teams.