Tower crane is up at Couture construction site

Aerial view of The Couture construction site in early February. Credit: Findorff

Last updated on March 16th, 2022 at 10:41 am

A 175-foot tower crane stands as the most visible sign of recent construction progress at The Couture project site near downtown Milwaukee’s lakefront.

Construction on the $190 million, 44-story high-rise is now slated to wrap by the end of 2023, said Eric Sadler, senior project manager at Madison-based general contractor J.H. Findorff & Son Inc., speaking to the media Thursday morning. Reporters were invited to visit the site for an update on construction progress.

Sadler called last week’s tower crane installation a “big milestone,” marking the start of concrete foundation work. Initially, the crane will help crews move around heavy materials such as concrete forms and rebar cages, and later it will be used to lift precast panels, the glass window system, stairs, and roofing material. It can lift a total of 16,000 pounds from anywhere on the site, equivalent to lifting 3 full-size pickup trucks using a sliding sling choker.

Over the duration of the project, the crane’s height will be increased four times, reaching a final height of 621 feet. A second tower crane will go up in spring for construction of the adjacent 550-stall parking structure.

Pile driving at the site won’t be complete for another month, but crews can now start forming the concrete on top of the piles, working their way in toward the core of the building. A total of 192 piles will be placed in the ground, about 110 feet below grade. With the bulk of concrete foundation work expected to wrap in the next few months, the structure will begin its ascent out of the ground sometime this summer, said Sadler.

More excavation will happen on the south side of the project site once there’s enough concrete foundation to support the sheet piling that makes up the foundation’s perimeter.

While progress has been made since construction commenced in May, the project has reportedly fallen behind schedule.

“As is expected with a major construction project on a 2-acre downtown site, there have been a few unforeseen conditions encountered while working below grade,” said Rick Barrett, The Couture developer founder and chief executive officer of Milwaukee-based Barrett Lo Visionary Development, in a statement. “In particular, we found two major discoveries that were not on the survey: more than 50 piles which needed to be identified and removed, and a major We Energies transformer serving downtown which needed to be designed around. These challenges were addressed and construction is advancing.”

The delay throws a wrench in the city’s plans to launch service on The Hop streetcar’s lakefront line this summer, in order to meet a deadline to use $1.4 million in federal grant funding, according to reporting by Urban Milwaukee.

The Couture’s ground-level transit concourse will serve The Hop’s lakefront line and will be the turnaround point for Milwaukee County’s bus rapid transit line.

The city is now working on a revised agreement that would give the streetcar’s lakefront line until Oct. 31, 2023 to begin service, according to Urban Milwaukee. Sadler said Thursday that the transit center in The Couture will be complete before the rest of the project is done in 2023, but he didn’t provide a specific timeline other than it wouldn’t be done this summer.

See more coverage from WISN-TV Channel 12, a media partner of BizTimes Milwaukee.

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Maredithe has covered retail, restaurants, entertainment and tourism since 2018. Her duties as associate editor include copy editing, page proofing and managing work flow. Meyer earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University and still enjoys attending men’s basketball games to cheer on the Golden Eagles. Also in her free time, Meyer coaches high school field hockey and loves trying out new restaurants in Milwaukee.

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