Four construction groups bidding to build The Couture

Developer plans to make selection by end of March

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Three construction firms and a team of two construction firms are bidding to build The Couture, a 44-story luxury apartment tower planned by Barrett Lo Visionary Development near the lakefront in downtown Milwaukee, according to Barrett Lo owner and founder Rick Barrett.

Updated plans for The Couture were submitted to the city this week.
Updated plans for The Couture were submitted to the city this week.

The four bidders for the construction management contract for The Couture are:

Barrett Lo and its architect, Milwaukee-based Rinka Chung Architecture, this week submitted updated plans to the city for The Couture.

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The Couture is planned for the former site of the Downtown Milwaukee Transit Center, which was a county bus storage and transfer facility at 909 E. Michigan St. Barrett Lo recently completed demolition work of the transit center facility and is working to finalize financing to begin construction, which is expected to begin sometime this year and take about two years to complete.

But first a construction firm must be selected to lead the project, and negotiations on the total construction cost of the project must be finalized, Barrett said. A construction management firm or team will be selected by the end of March, he said.

Once that is done, and cost negotiations are finalized, work to finalize financing for the project can progress, Barrett said.

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The cost of the project has been estimated at $122 million but as the project has been updated and improved it will be a challenge to hit that price target, Barrett said.

“We need the pricing set,” he said. “We need to know where we are at.”

As for financing, “we’ve got a lot of different options,” Barrett said.

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The building will have 312 apartment units, 48,000 square feet of retail space and structured parking above ground and underground.

The retail space plans include a two-level boutique grocery store on the southeast corner of the building on the first two floors. A restaurant space is planned on the third floor with a patio wrapping around the building that will offer “a sick view” of the city and lakefront, Barrett said.

“It’s going to be an unbelievable outdoor seating area,” he said.

There will be a few other smaller additional retail spaces in the building.

Discussions are ongoing with potential retail tenants. Barrett said there are “a lot of people interested” in the grocery store and restaurant spaces.

The Couture also will have a two-level transit concourse to accommodate the downtown streetcar and Milwaukee County buses.

Barrett Lo and city officials are in discussions about how to replace and relocate an underground sewer pipe on the site and who will pay for it, Barrett said.

Barrett also responded to an Urban Milwaukee report Friday that said his firm is already planning a second tower on The Couture site. Barrett told BizTimes Milwaukee he is totally focused on the current plans for The Couture and said “we don’t have anything planned” for a second tower, but said a second phase of the development on its two-acre site was possible sometime in the future.

For now, the existing project is more than enough to keep his hands full, Barrett said.

“It’s a huge effort, a monster project,” he said.

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