Group says it'll sue County if "Couture" project moves forward

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The so-called "Shoreline bill" has passed the state Senate, and now awaits Gov. Scott Walker's signature. If Gov. Walker signs the bill into law, it would mean a controversial high-rise project planned for Milwaukee's Lakefront would move forward.

The Couture project involves a proposed a 44-story hotel and apartment building featuring restaurants, retail space and parking.

The project is proposed for the current Downtown Transit Center site.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele proposed the project back in July of 2012 -- saying it would bring thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of permanent jobs to Milwaukee.

Opponents of the project argue it would be built on publicly-owned land.

When the project was laid out back in 2012, it was billed as a $125 million "Couture tower" that would include 180 apartments, 180 hotel rooms and retail space.

Since then, the project has stalled -- partly because of the border dispute.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says a 25-8 vote this week by the state Senate will help move the project forward.

"The next step of course, is to make sure the financing is there and we get the Couture built. I think it will be a great addition to downtown Milwaukee," Mayor Barrett said.

"Preserve Our Parks" has long challenged private, commercial development of the land. The group argues the property where the Couture project would be built rests on a filled lake bed -- formerly part of Lake Michigan, and therefore is "public trust land."

On Tuesday, March 11th, lawmakers in Madison reaffirmed Lakefront boundaries -- saying that's not the case.

"What we are doing is going back to the 1913 lines that were drawn and say 'this is the boundary that we need to respect.'  If a project is within that line, it should be able to go ahead without a huge environmental challenge," Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) said.

Preserve Our Parks has threatened to sue Milwaukee County if the project moves forward.

However, Mayor Barrett says he's hopeful the Couture will rise without conflict. He says it's one of three projects currently in development for downtown Milwaukee that will provide an economic boost to the city.

"From construction jobs, to permanent office jobs, to other jobs that would be in support of that -- that`s all great for downtown," Mayor Barrett said.

The project's developer offered the following statement to FOX6 News:

"We welcome the State Legislature's bipartisan action which re-affirmed the definition of the lakefront that the City and State have been using for more than a century. We look forward to continuing to partner with Milwaukee County to advance our vision for the Downtown Transit Center site."

FOX6 News also reached out to Preserve Our Parks for comment on this story -- but we have not heard back.

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