Plans for 44-story downtown tower unveiled

Rick Barrett, the lead developer for the 30-story Moderne residential high rise under construction downtown, architect Matt Rinka, and Milwaukee County officials will unveil plans today for a 44-story building that Barrett wants to develop at the site of the Milwaukee County Downtown Transit Center on the lakefront.

“I feel it’s the finest location in downtown Milwaukee,” Barrett said. “I believe this project could help bring other projects on the lakefront off the drawing board and into the ground. I believe it will be a signature building for the city of Milwaukee.”

The $120 million development, which is called Couture, would have 180 apartments, a 180-room hotel, restaurants, retail space and parking. Barrett told BizTimes will this morning that the hotel is currently a concept and new specific hotel operator has been lined up yet for the project. Barrett said he needs site control to be able to put together a deal with a hotel operator and other tenants. The hotel would probably be a “four star plus” caliber, Barrett said.

The project would create more than 4,400 construction jobs and 200 permanent jobs, according to county officials.

“The jobs are the most important thing,” Barrett said.

At 531 feet tall, the building would be the third tallest in Milwaukee behind the U.S. Bank Center and the 100 East office building.

Barrett said he is confident the attractiveness of the location and the quality of the design will help draw several potential financing sources for the project.

County officials issued a request for information (RFI) from developers interested in building on the Downtown Transit Center site, which in its current use is considered by many to be a waste of prime downtown lakefront real estate.

Barrett was one of four developers that responded to the RFI. The others are Irgens, Wangard Partners and Ryan Cos., according to sources. Several sources said officials in County Executive Chris Abele’s office favor Barrett’s proposal for the site.

“This project will be a great addition to the Milwaukee lakefront, bringing jobs and a strong tax base for decades to come,” Abele said in a news release.

“I’m honored to be the recipient of the recommendation (from Abele’s office), Barrett said.

The Milwaukee County Board’s Economic and Community Development Committee will review all of the proposals for the Downtown Transit Center site during its meeting on Monday.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” Barrett said. “I hope the County Board sees it that way.”

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