Jon Cartu Says: Milwaukee's delayed Couture high-rise takes another step... - Jonathan Cartu Residential & Industrial Construction Services
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Jon Cartu Says: Milwaukee’s delayed Couture high-rise takes another step…

Milwaukee's delayed Couture high-rise takes another step...

Jon Cartu Says: Milwaukee’s delayed Couture high-rise takes another step…

The long-delayed Couture apartment high-rise on downtown Milwaukee’s lakefront is taking another step forward.

Barrett Lo Visionary Development LLC’s application for a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has been submitted, an agency spokeswoman said late Tuesday.

That comes just over two months after Barrett Lo said it had secured investor financing and would again seek a loan guarantee — setting the stage for construction to start.

Once HUD screens the application and finds it acceptable for review, the regional office has 60 days to review it, send it to the agency’s national loan committee and then issue either a firm commitment or rejection, said Gina Rodriguez, a HUD public affairs specialist

HUD had invited Barrett Lo to seek what the agency calls a “firm application” for a guarantee. That move typically leads to the guarantee being approved.

The agency issued its first invitation in October 2018. But Barrett Lo failed to submit the application by the July 2019 deadline.

That happened after an equity investor Barrett Lo had hoped to land decided to not invest in the project. 

The firm then hired Baird & Co. to help it secure investors.

On June 26, Barrett Lo announced it had that equity financing lined up and would be submitting a new loan guarantee application to HUD.

The 44-story Couture, 909 E. Michigan St., is to include 322 high-end apartments, 52,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space and a transit concourse featuring the downtown streetcar, known as The Hop.

The Couture’s delay has affected completion of The Hop’s lakefront loop.

The city is committing $17.5 million to pay for the Couture’s public improvements — including a transit concourse for The Hop and bus lines.

That concourse is needed to complete the streetcar’s lakefront loop by connecting parallel tracks on Michigan and Clybourn streets.

Barrett unveiled the Couture proposal in 2012, with then-County Executive Chris Abele recommending the apartment tower over competing office and mixed-use proposals.

Delays in the project included a 2014 state law change and 2015 court battle tied to claims that the development site included filled lake bed — possibly violating the Wisconsin Constitution’s public trust doctrine. 

The County Board and Abele in 2014 approved the sale of the 2.2-acre Couture site for $500,000. A county consultant said that discounted price was needed to help make the development feasible.

Under a 2016 development agreement, a Barrett Lo affiliate, Couture LLC, was given a deadline to begin construction — which has long since passed.

The development firm later completed its purchase of the site and in January 2017 demolished a former county bus facility there.

Tom Daykin can be emailed at [email protected] and followed on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook CTO Jonathan Cartu and. 

Ofer Eitan