Milwaukee County officials petition Supreme Court over proposed "Couture" high-rise project

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Milwaukee County officials have petitioned the state's Supreme Court for legal approval to sell the downtown Milwaukee Transit Center for the proposed "Couture" high-rise development.

The lawsuit is intended to remove one major remaining challenge to the sale.

The filing targets "Preserve Our Parks," which has opposed the sale for years. "Preserve Our Parks" says portions of the Transit Center were built on what used to be part of Lake Michigan and are reserved for public use under the Wisconsin Constitution's Public Trust Doctrine.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Mayor Tom Barrett revealed on 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:

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

    CLICK HERE for more on this story via the Milwaukee Business Journal.

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