Within the past two years, both Brookfield and Riverside have completed master planning exercises that have produced thought-provoking and exciting action plans for economic and residential redevelopment in the respective villages.

Both documents are comprehensive looks at the challenges and realities each village faces and each proposes ways to revitalize business districts that have become moribund or obsolete. In some ways the plans appear to be fantasies. They envision villages so completely different than they appear now, it seems almost impossible that such revitalization could indeed happen in our lifetimes.

A riverfront hotel and trail system in Riverside? A vibrant Grand Boulevard featuring retail destination businesses?

Of course, none of this happens overnight. It takes a hands-on approach by each village, methods for encouraging private and enabling public investment and, perhaps most importantly, the support of the people who live in each village.

Would such development, if it came to pass, essentially change the business districts in each village? Without a doubt. While that might make many uncomfortable, what is the alternative? Is that alternative a viable long-term solution?

Brookfield’s village board has already adopted its master plan as the guide to its future redevelopment. After a period of inactivity, it looks as if village officials are beginning to take a stab at making sure that master plan meshes with its zoning code.

Since it is a staff-driven process at this point, expect that review to take some time. Riverside spent over two years revising its residential zoning code?”and that was led by an outside consultant.

While that review in Brookfield continues, officials can’t lose sight of development opportunities that come their way. We hope that the promise of development the village saw in 2000-04 wasn’t a missed opportunity and that the master plan laid the ground work for more to come.

Riverside is in the midst of a new interest in redevelopment, both residential and commercial. In a way, the timing for the village’s downtown master plan couldn’t have come at a better time.

Since the village has already completed its new zoning code for the downtown business district and its residential districts, the rules are in place for developers who are clearly interested in the village.

The master plan provides an opportunity to ensure that laying all of that groundwork reaps benefits. The last, perhaps most critical part of that equation, is encouraging that interest by providing incentives for development that will benefit Riverside’s downtown and reclaim the largely ignored river front.

Throughout decades both Riverside and Brookfield have completed a myriad of master plans, some more comprehensive than others. More often than not, the plans have rehashed the same issues and have sat ignored on the shelves of local officials.

These plans are different, because they include a means to accomplish the ends envisioned in them. All that’s needed now is some courage on the part of elected officials to see that those plans become reality.