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What’s next for The Couture?

Going through archives while waiting for a public hearing to begin, I was struck by the last sentence of the first story I ever wrote about The Couture.

“The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors must approve the project before development can begin.”

That’s a “what’s next” line, included to tell the reader the story does not really end even though the article does.

But that sentence is what has not happened next.

It’s the crux of the battle that has been waged over the transit center since July 11, 2012. That was the day County Executive Chris Abele and a handful of supervisors threw their support behind The Couture, which Rick Barrett unveiled while standing in the transit center’s courtyard.

Since then, however, the County Board has not had a chance to approve the project so development could begin. The board signed off on letting negotiations begin between Barrett and the county, but those negotiations have not resulted in a contract that the board could consider.

In the months since July 11, 2012, a community group has threatened a lawsuit over environmental concerns. The state Department of Natural Resources appeared to say the land was developable and then denied making a determination. The county hired an attorney, who told supervisors he is 100 percent sure the project could be built. The state Legislature, through the 2013-15 budget, dictated the shoreline of Lake Michigan.

Now, the County Board of Supervisors is one vote away from seeking a court judgment on the status of the land, and the state Legislature is considering a second bill, this one with more details than the hastily inserted budget provision, that would clear the way for The Couture.

The County Board is expected to vote Thursday on whether to seek that judgment.

The bill, authored by Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-West Allis, and Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, received a public hearing Wednesday in front of an Assembly committee. That committee could vote in the next couple weeks, Sanfelippo said, and be up for the full Assembly’s consideration by the end of the month.

So now, 575 days since I wrote that first Couture story, here’s your what’s next line:

“Who knows?”

About Beth Kevit

Beth Kevit is the Milwaukee city beat reporter and also covers real estate. She can be reached at beth.kevit@dailyreporter.com or 414-225-1820.

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