COUTURE: New look at project that will change Milwaukee's skyline

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Mayor Tom Barrett revealed on Wednesday, September 3rd an updated plan to redevelop the Downtown Transit Center into what will be the Couture building. The plan includes public space that Barrett and Abele say improves access to the lakefront, creates thousands of jobs and adds another signature building to Milwaukee.

The updated plan for the $122 million Couture and surrounding space comes after nearly two years of negotiation and dialogue with residents, elected officials and stakeholders from across the County.

"The Couture is an opportunity for the city to look at it as a transformational project and with the opportunity with a multi-modal, parts of transportation being brought into the building, with pedestrians, bikes, cars and streetcar," said Rick Barrett, developer of Couture.

The Couture plans include a transportation hub that increases bus connections and adds a streetcar stop.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele says the county currently owns the $500,000 property which would be sold to the development company under an agreement which has the company covering the costs of demolition.

"We're selling the empty concrete bus barn. The city is doing some public financing for just the public access," said Abele.

Meanwhile, Rick Barrett hopes to break ground on Couture late in 2014 -- with construction to begin next year. That's something Abele is eager to see happen.

"It's gonna add millions to the tax base, create thousands of jobs, and have better public access, now, that even when it was proposed," said Abele.

The developer, Barrett Visionary Development, has committed to 25 percent Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) participation and 40 percent Milwaukee County Resident Hiring as part of the project.

Highlights of the updated project include:

    The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin (HCCW) announced its support of the Couture project with the following statement:

    “We are tremendously excited about the opportunities presented by today's announcement. First, it provides significant new investment downtown that will support local businesses and HCCW members through Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) contract opportunities, job creation and workforce development during and after construction. This exciting project also establishes a new tax base that will benefit our community for decades to come. The Couture’s positive economic impact is great news for HCCW membership and Milwaukee’s entire workforce. The project also creates critical transportation connections that will provide new vitality for our City and its residents. Finally, the significant new public amenities are a critical piece of the gateway project which is transforming our lakefront – and will provide the Chamber greater opportunities to connect HCCW members and the Chamber’s high-growth Hispanic workforce constituents to careers and lifelong earnings opportunity. We applaud the County, the City and Rick Barrett for this visionary project; it deserves our community's support.” – Jorge Franco, HCCW Chairman, President & CEO

    CLICK HERE to view "A Lakefront Vision for the Future" from the group, Preserve Our Parks.

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