See photos of Couture construction progress as crews begin driving piles, pouring concrete

Pile driving work slated for January completion

Ongoing construction at The Couture site in late November.
Ongoing construction at The Couture site in late November.

Last updated on November 30th, 2021 at 01:24 pm

Construction of The Couture tower in downtown Milwaukee is in full stride and on schedule, according to the developer and general contractor.

Crews recently reached the bottom of the hole they were digging, and are continuing to remove sediment. That work is happening alongside pile driving and some concrete pouring, said Jeff Kremel, site superintendent with Madison-based J.H. Findorff & Son Inc.

Work is generally moving from east to west. Site work began in May.

The Couture is a roughly $190 million, 44-story high-rise under construction at 909 E. Michigan St. near the downtown Milwaukee lakefront. Once built, it will contain 322 residential units, 42,000 square feet of commercial space, a transit center and public park space.

Rick Barrett, The Couture developer founder and chief executive officer of Milwaukee-based Barrett Lo Visionary Development, said the project is on schedule to finish in 2023.

Piles are being driven on the eastern end of the project site, where the hole has been dug. More dirt is coming out on the western end. Kremel said about 43,000 cubic yards of material has been hauled from the site. That puts crews beyond the halfway point of the 72,000 cubic yards ultimately to be removed. Crews haul about 100 loads of material per day off the site.

A total of 192 piles will be placed in the ground, about 110 feet below grade. Each pile will have a capacity of 400 tons. Pile driving is slated for completion in January, Kremel said. There will be a few tests of the piles’ load capacity starting next week. Each test costs $50,000, Barrett said.

Following the pile driving work, crews will pour concrete in sections. They will pour the foundation and build up from there. Except in extreme cold, they will be able to pour throughout the winter.

Kremel said there will be two crews doing concrete work. One will focus on the parking structure, and the other on the tower itself.

A temporary sewer line is in place at the far west end of the site. An existing sewer line needed to be relocated to make way for The Couture.

The building will be made entirely of concrete, meaning no structural steel. Barrett said the choice of building material mirrors his other downtown high-rise, the Moderne.

Concrete prices have been relatively stable during the COVID-19 pandemic and supply-chain disruptions as opposed to steel as a building material. This means The Couture hasn’t seen as great a cost impact as it might otherwise have.

“The commodity that is concrete has remained rather static, so we’ve been just fine,” Barrett said. “Sometimes you get lucky. But, that’s not the real decision here. The decision is, in my opinion … I think concrete buildings are the best buildings in the world. And there’s a reason why high-rises are concrete.”

Barrett said there’s been “a lot of interest” in the commercial space of The Couture, with some meetings with prospective users, but no firm commitments yet.

“No one’s signed yet, but there’s a lot of buzz,” he said.

Barrett said commercial tenants would ideally be complementary to the residents living at The Couture and tie into its transit center. This could include restaurants, bars, fitness centers or food stores.

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Alex Zank covers commercial and residential real estate for BizTimes. Alex previously worked for Farm Equipment magazine and also covered statewide construction news at The Daily Reporter. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he studied journalism, political science and economics. Having grown up in rural western Wisconsin, Alex loves all things outdoors, including camping, hiking, four-wheeling and hunting.

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