Downtown hotel, apartments plan is an upgrade
It must have seemed like a good idea at the time, but I'm hard-pressed to figure out why a prime piece of Downtown real estate at 909 E. Michigan St. ever became home to a bunker-like bus terminal that appears to see very little bus traffic and even less foot traffic.
For years, before it was constructed, I waited for the No. 20 bus at its then-layoff spot around the corner on Cass Street. Never once did I think, "I'd prefer to wait in a dark, windowless building that would have a view of the lake if only planners thought to make it a pleasant space with, well, a view of the lake."
So, I greeted news today that County Executive Chris Abele and developer Rick Barrett are pitching demolishing the concrete boondoggle and replacing it with The Couture, a white tower that would be the second tallest building in the state with a sigh of relief.
Sure, the name's kinda, well, you know ... but, still, it beats the current site use. Other developers also submitted proposals for the property but I haven't seen those yet.
The 44-story 180-room hotel and 179-high-end apartment skytickler (let's be honest, 44 stories is a little short of skyscraper) will, if the market can bear it, build the city's tax base and welcome more folks to live and visit Downtown. The project also calls for retail space and parking.
The building's glassy white facade, drawn by Milwaukee's Rinka Chung – which also designed The Moderne, a currently-rising Barrett project west of the river, among other local projects – recalls other Downtown buildings, including The Moderne, the boxier neighboring U.S. Bank building and The University Club Tower up the road a piece.
Then there's the $120 million price tag. That's a lot of dough in the pockets of local construction workers. More than 4,400 of them, according to County estimates, which also suggest the project will create 200 permanent jobs. I cannot, however, vouch for the accuracy of these numbers.
But just today I was telling a visitor from Chicago about how the County has been wisely cautious about overdeveloping the lakefront, yet lately turning poorly run (or previously shuttered) existing structures into useful and pleasurable venues: Bradford Beach concession stand, Northpoint Custard, Alterra at the Lake, Harbor House.
Getting that wad of tannish-brown concrete near the foot of Michigan Avenue removed and replaced would be yet another major step forward.
Seems strange to me that Abele was the judge and jury on the proposals. Makes me wonder if there is a relationship with Barrett, resulting in essentially a no-bid project for the firm. It would be nice to see what the other concepts were. However, it is nice to see them move pro-actively on a run down eyesore for once. The city does not have a history of doing that. See: Park East Freeway, Sydney Hih.
Bobby Tanzilo | July 12, 2012 at 9:25 a.m. (report)
Thanks Jeramey. The posting had it right but the headline was inaccurate. I've corrected it.
jt | July 11, 2012 at 8:03 p.m. (report)
condo, apartments. many times higher end apartments are called condos. but, yes, plan calls for rental units. i'd guess, though, some will go condo eventually.
I love it. It will not impact the sightlines and bring more to the lakefront..
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