Changing Milwaukee’s Skyline

Project Overview

Barrett Lo Visionary Development (BLVD) engaged Mueller Communications to help secure necessary public approvals and provide media relations support for its proposed development “The Couture” – the largest residential tower in Wisconsin, designed specifically to be constructed on the site of an underutilized Milwaukee County bus terminal along Milwaukee’s lakefront. The project is designed to include public spaces and a transit concourse, including streetcar and Bus Rapid Transit stops inside the first level of the building.

The Challenge

In 2011, Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee aspired to a brighter vision for Milwaukee; one that included additional economic development and a spotlight on the assets of this place. To further that vision, Milwaukee County sought to redevelop its Downtown Transit Center bus barn located at the lakefront, and collected proposals from developers, including an early iteration of The Couture from BLVD.

Nearly ten years passed between the time BLVD submitted its proposal and it was possible for construction of the Couture to begin. In the intervening years, the project faced countless challenges – including legal challenges that necessitated a trip to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s loan approval process, and demands on the County that required redesigning and re-envisioning the building to include true public transit elements.

Because of the sheer number of challenges and duration of time from when the project was first proposed and when construction began, there was serious skepticism among members of the media, and a need for an organized approach to coordination with City and County officials. BLVD turned to Mueller Communications to develop collaborative partnerships with the City and County throughout the evolution of the project, as well as to develop a communications strategy to mitigate negativity, and provide positive news angles to the media in order to support ongoing efforts to raise capital for the project.

The Solution

Throughout all of those challenges, Mueller Communications provided strategic counsel, government relations and media relations support to BLVD to ensure that key stakeholders (including investors, elected officials and the public) were up to date on the facts and to help shepherd in necessary approvals.

Mueller Communications built a broad coalition of support for the effort, including business associations, minority business chambers, organized labor and neighboring cultural institutions, who helped drive constituent contacts to help ensure a successful outcome.

The Results

Mueller executed a successful public affairs strategy focusing on both the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors and the City of Milwaukee Common Council to gain all necessary approvals, which included a discounted purchase price for the land from the County and a significant tax incremental financing component from the City.

BLVD, meanwhile, succeeded in bringing together financing from across the United States, including the largest FHA loan that HUD has ever executed in Wisconsin, in order to pave the way for the Couture.