Sale of Couture site wins federal approval

Developer plans to close on site April 29

The Couture

Milwaukee developer Rick Barrett has won federal approval to purchase the site currently occupied by the Downtown Transit Center from Milwaukee County, paving the way for construction of The Couture.

Barrett, the owner of Barrett Lo Visionary Development, learned Monday that the Federal Transit Administration has agreed that the county could sell the site to him for a discounted price of $500,000. The property has an appraised value of $8.9 million.

The FTA had the final say because of a 1988 agreement that helped finance the transit center.

“To be completely honest, it hasn’t really sunk in,” Barrett said. “I think when I drive by the site tomorrow, it will hit me.”

In 2012, Milwaukee County chose Barrett and his proposal for The Couture, a $122 million project that county and Milwaukee city officials hope will transform the Downtown Transit Center site into a mixed-used tower and multi-modal transportation hub at Milwaukee’s lakefront.

The 44-story building will take 32 months to complete once construction begins. The Couture project will have 302 luxury apartments, about 50,000 square feet of retail space, public parking, transit connections and numerous public amenities, including a connection to the proposed Lakefront Gateway Plaza.

It will be built on the site currently occupied by the Downtown Transit Center, a bus storage and transfer facility, at the southwest corner of Lincoln Memorial Drive and Michigan Street, near the lakefront in downtown Milwaukee.

Barrett will close on his purchase of the property from the county on April 29. Ideally, he will move into demolition right after closing, but said he might wait until August so it doesn’t interfere with Summerfest.

“This has been a collaborative process from the beginning – from working with the state legislature, to the city for the TIF grant we needed to make this project feasible, to the county,” Barrett said. “It has been challenging, but I’m happy to say we’ve run the gauntlet and now we can get started.”

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said the FTA’s decision was the  final hurdle that was standing in the way of the Couture development and the redevelopment of the underutilized transit facility.

“The development at the Couture has the potential to be one of the most complex and transformative projects in Milwaukee’s history,” Abele said. “I’m thrilled to announce we are one step closer to putting thousands of people to work in good-paying jobs and generating millions of dollars in new economic development.”

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