Updated design unveiled for The Couture

Updated design plans for The Couture, the proposed 44-story, $122 million luxury apartment tower planned for the site of the Downtown Transit Center at the lakefront, were unveiled today by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

The latest plans for the project include numerous public elements including: a rooftop park, a public transportation concourse, a streetcar stop, a walkway to the lakefront, a bike sharing station, public parking and a public plaza. The project has 81,560 square feet of public space and $17.5 million in public improvements, according to the Barrett and Abele announcement.

Click here to see the updated renderings for The Couture.

The streetcar stop is an interesting addition, because the current proposed streetcar route does not include The Couture site.

The Couture is proposed by Milwaukee-based developer Rick Barrett and is designed by Milwaukee-based Rinka Chung Architecture.

Barrett pitched the project in response to an RFP from Milwaukee County officials, who sought a private development to replace the underutilized bus transfer and storage facility in a prime location southwest of Michigan Street and Lincoln Memorial Drive near the lakefront.

However, parks advocacy group Preserve Our Parks has threatened to file a lawsuit to stop the project. The group says much of the site was originally in the Lake Michigan lakebed and therefore private development is prohibited there by the state’s public trust doctrine. Earlier this year, Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation establishing a historic shoreline location that would allow The Couture to proceed. But Preserve Our Parks has still threatened to sue in an attempt to derail the project. The threat of litigation has so far made it difficult to obtain title insurance for the property.

The release of updated plans for The Couture with numerous public amenities could be an attempt to alleviate the public trust doctrine concerns for the project.

“When Milwaukee County first chose Rick Barrett’s Couture project, we saw an amazing opportunity that would be hard to top. This updated plan is even better. We are working hard to coordinate with our friends at the city, as always happens when partners work together, and we’ve taken a good project and made it great,” said Abele. “Not only are we adding and improving public space, we’re replacing an eyesore along our lakefront and creating thousands of jobs, including a significant hiring focus in our underserved communities.”

“The Couture and the public investments at this site set a new standard for access, amenities and connections between the lakefront and the rest of the city.  The plan we are sharing today makes the public’s interest a priority with its open spaces, its pedestrian access, and the transportation connections,” Mayor Tom Barrett said. “With The Couture, we are opening a new entrance to our cultural institutions, our recreational sites, and Milwaukee’s beautiful lakefront.”

Barrett, the developer who is not related to the mayor, has argued that The Couture will create jobs and provide a much-needed boost to the city’s tax base. He has committed to 25 percent disadvantaged business enterprise (DBE) participation and 40 percent Milwaukee County resident hiring for the project. The project will create 2,074 construction related jobs and 150 permanent jobs, according to today’s announcement. The building will generate $68 million in property tax revenue over 30 years, according to today’s announcement.

“We are tremendously excited to be moving forward with this transformational project,” Rick Barrett said. “We are proud to be bringing significant new investment to Milwaukee, growing our community’s tax base and creating thousands of new jobs.”

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