By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Feb 03, 2022 at 11:28 AM

Attentive folks will have noticed that a yellow tower crane has appeared on Lincoln Memorial Drive, rising 175 feet above the site of the future Couture building, construction of which began last May.

The tower crane was recently installed by Findorff, the general contractor on the $188 million project.

The Couture project – which was designed by Rinka+ and developed by Barrett Lo Visionary – will not only alter the Downtown skyline, but will also add plazas, pedestrian bridges, a Hop streetcar stop and Milwaukee County Transit System bus rapid transit depot to the lakefront at Michigan, Clybourn and Lincoln Memorial Drive.

RINKA+ rendering of the finished building.

The building will rise to 516 feet, 10 inches and will have 322 residential units and 42,837 square feet of retail space.

The crane, which is operated by Craig Glover, will ultimately rise to 621 feet as it performs a variety of tasks.

The crane’s boom is slightly more than 200 feet long. It can lift a load of 16,000 pounds – that’s about the same as three full-size pickup trucks – and can access the entire site.

A smaller crane will be installed on the west side of the site to help build the parking structure, which will rise about three stories above ground.

Initially, the big crane will help with construction of the 44-story tower’s concrete superstructure but it will also assist in lifting roofing materials, window glass, staircases, precast panels and more.


"The crane's main focus is to help with the concrete foundation," says Findorff Senior Project Manager Eric Sadler. That work is expected to begin within the next month.

"To help move forms around and do all that heavy lifting," he adds. "The next few months will be getting all that foundation work done."

Once the foundation is done,  work on the building's core – which includes the elevators – will begin.

"That has its own self climbing system," Sadler adds. "By summer we’ll be coming out of the ground. It’s a fully concrete building, so the top floor will be (done in) 2023."

Glover, who has been a crane operator for 26 years and was crane operator on the BMO Tower project recently, says its takes him about five minutes to make the climb to the climate controlled cabin.

"When we get moving he will be nonstop all day," says Findorff Construction’s site supervisor, Jeff Kremel. "He usually starts about a half hour before the rest of us and about a half-hour before the end of the day he’ll ask does anyone need any (last-minute) picks.

"He’s probably here longer than anyone else on site."

(No, there are no facilities up there. "I bring my own," Glover says without going into detail.)

As the tower rises, the crane will be tied into it and later, when the crane is jacked up higher, Glover will be able to ride an elevator in the tower and then cross a connector to reach the crane without having to climb a ladder the whole way.

Four crane jumps are anticipated and can begin once it's tied into the rising tower, says Kremel.

Thanks to an illuminated Findorff sign near the top, you can even see the crane from a distance at night.

At the moment, according to Sadler, there are five to 10 workers on the site each day, but that number should soon be about 25-30.

"By peak time there will be hundreds of people here," Sadler says. "Two-hundred or so, with all the subcontractors ... maybe more, maybe less."

We last visited the site for an update in late November, when we also got a look at the finds to date during the excavation. More excavation is still coming, so more objects may yet be found.

The tower is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

A number of issues have caused a delayed timeline, including an unexpected sewer line running beneath the site.

Recently, local media reported that $1.4 million in federal funds tabbed for the lakefront streetcar extension, which is linked to the Couture construction, must be spent or forfeited by Sept. 30. An extension is being sought.

Developer Rick Barrett was not available on site Thursday morning to answer questions about this aspect of the project and he did not address it in a statement released afterward.

"We have seen great progress on Couture construction including site work, digging and pile driving," he said. "As is expected with a major construction project on a two-acre Downtown site, there have been a few unforeseen conditions encountered while working below grade.

"In particular, we found two major discoveries that were not on the survey: more than 50 piles which needed to be identified and removed, and a major We Energies transformer serving Downtown which needed to be designed around. These challenges were addressed and construction is advancing."

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.