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Home / 2011 Newsmakers of the Year / Barrett fights for his downtown designs

Barrett fights for his downtown designs

2011 Developer of the Year

Rick Barrett, Barrett Visionary Development Holdings LLC

Photo by Kevin Harnack

Rick Barrett is intent on adding to Milwaukee’s skyline, no matter how challenging the process.

A native of Glendale, Barrett is the managing partner and namesake of Barrett Visionary Development Holdings LLC, now in its 12th year. Most recently, he has poured his efforts into The Moderne, a $54 million high-rise residential site that broke ground in February at Old World Third Street and Juneau Avenue in Milwaukee.

Progress on the 30-story mix of apartments, condos and first-floor retail space was held up at various points because of zoning department design concerns and a delay on a $9.3 million city construction loan, but Barrett kept moving forward.

“It was time to finally make a bold move and … enhance the city in the best way I saw possible,” Barrett said. “People thought I was crazy or too ambitious, or it was something that this city couldn’t see actually happen, but I could disagree more with that mentality. “Milwaukee can achieve great architecture in its downtown proper.”

Barrett and his team have developed a variety of Milwaukee properties in the past decade, including the Beerline River Homes, Park Terrace Row Houses and the Milwaukee Rowing Club.

Barrett said his success is due, in part, to his development team and subcontractors and tradesmen who were “the people I’ve always worked with, the people I went to high school with.”

After losing a bid on Milwaukee’s Kilbourn Tower project, Barrett said, the Moderne was the next step in his desire to contribute to the city’s skyline.

The developer “exemplifies creativity and development,” said Matt Rinka, principal with Rinka Chung Architecture Inc., Milwaukee; part of the Moderne project team.

“It’s something we need a lot more of in Milwaukee,” he said.

Barrett is a strong developer, Rinka said, because he knows what he wants.

“There are strong architectural lines that he won’t cross, he won’t budge on,” Rinka said. “That’s what makes him so great, is his ability to understand that truly good projects make developers push and defend what makes them unique and special.”

With the Moderne now underway, Barrett said he was preparing more “steady, ground-up developments” for the city he called home along with his wife, Maggie, and their four children.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Barrett said, “but it comes down to the fact that things that are this hard to do are usually worth it.”

— Justin Kern

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