Gaining leverage

Opinion: Editorials

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The Landmark View

Brookfield's village board created a TIF district for the Eight Corners commercial area for a couple of reasons. One was to provide an incentive for longtime anchor businesses, such as First National Bank of Brookfield, CVS and Tischler Finer Foods, to remain and reinvest.

It's a commercial district with some challenges. First you've got that crazy roundabout in the middle of it all, and it's not near a transportation hub (although it has bus service) like the downtown.

Infrastructure improvements, like the streetscape overhaul proposal, could be funded (it'd have to be a reimbursement at this point) in part through TIF funds. Those improvements will benefit existing businesses as well as serve as a way to attract new development, which is the other goal of creating a TIF.

The village would like to see mixed-use commercial/residential development in the Eight Corners TIF. Such developments bring not only businesses, but a built-in customer base for them.

The comprehensive plan being finalized right now references redevelopment in the Eight Corners commercial district. About 10 locations are called out specifically as ripe for development – including all three of the corners owned by Linda Sokol Francis, who has long operated a financial planning business in the district.

But the village and Francis have conflicting ideas of just how that commercial district ought to be redeveloped. Where the village sees opportunities for mixed-use development, Francis sees opportunities to expand the mission of her son's small Methodist congregation, formed after the dissolution of Brookfield United Methodist Church.

For the better part of a decade, Francis has been buying up key parcels of land to further the church's mission. She remains devoted to the idea of building a new Methodist church/community center on a large parcel of land she assembled in the 3400 block of Grand Boulevard. She's now bought up two more corners, giving her increasing leverage in the future of Eight Corners.

That she was able to buy the former Harps Realty property for a song should give the village of Brookfield pause, because if the village would like as much leverage as Francis, it had better become a player.

The village owns the former Brookfield Bowl and adjacent parking lot, located north of the circle on Maple Avenue. While that's a nice start and apparently has attracted a bit of attention from developers, they're getting beaten to the punch on other affordable key development sites.

Francis and the influence of the church aren't going away at Eight Corners, and that's something village officials are going to have to accept and deal with, especially if the village isn't willing to invest in property in order to control it.

For her part, Francis and her son are hoping in the short term to open a doughnut shop, a restaurant and an art gallery/worship space. Those sound intriguing and we hope they thrive.

But we wonder if the commitment to furthering the church's mission will hamstring redevelopment of Eight Corners, and village officials need to reconcile the two visions.

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