First reported 9/03/10 4:35 p.m.
Web Extra! View a pdf of the church plans

Brookfield residents curious about just what a proposed church/community center at Eight Corners will look like can find out at a pair of meetings scheduled this month.

The first opportunity will come at an informational meeting at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 12 at the Brookfield United Methodist Church, 3541 Park Ave. The meeting is being hosted by the project’s patron, local businesswoman Linda Sokol Francis, who has spent more than $1 million assembling land stretching halfway down the 3400 block of Grand Boulevard from the circle.

“I have no idea how many people may come to the meeting,” said Francis. “I know I’ll be baking a lot of cakes. If people have concerns or questions, we just want to be able to answer them. If there are specific concerns, why not get it figured out before the Plan Commission meeting.”

That’s because the church proposal will be up for consideration at the Plan Commission’s Sept. 23 session. The hearing, at which public testimony will be welcomed, will be the preliminary step in a multi-step approval process for the planned development.

Francis has said she would like the entire process, which includes preliminary and final approvals from both the Plan Commission and village board to wrap up prior to the end of the year. Other projects going through the village’s planned development process have taken six months or more to win approval.

Plans submitted to the village for the project indicate that the existing two-story building at the corner of Grand and Washington would be demolished and replaced by a multipurpose, Prairie-style structure.

Mainly one-story tall and faced with brick, cedar siding and large windows, its long, overhanging eaves give the building a secular appearance. The building’s footprint covers some 12,600 square feet of the parcel.

The architectural firm for the project is Wheaton-based Church Building Architects.

A coffee shop/ice cream parlor is planned to sit at the south end of the building right at the corner. A plaza with tables for patrons is partially covered by the extended eaves. Across an interior vestibule from the coffee shop is a small chapel.

Francis said that the concept is that the southern end of the building, including the coffee shop, chapel and restrooms would be open to the public for most of the day.

“Hopefully it will become a teenage hangout, instead of the 16 kids hanging out by the fountain,” Francis said.

According to a press release issued by Francis last week, “This new building will make Eight Corners more appealing and may well bring shoppers and families to the downtown area.”

The northern portion of the building includes church offices, classrooms for religious instruction, a kitchen and a large multipurpose room that will serve as the main worship space for as many as 250 people, but which can also be rented out for various other functions, such as banquets.

A parking lot with a capacity for 50 vehicles would be located north of the building along Grand Boulevard. The surface of the lot would be built of permeable pavers, according to Francis’ press release, “an environmentally friendly green design to stop flooding and help recharge the ground water.”

The Brookfield Plan Commission could vote to give the proposal preliminary approval at its Sept. 23 meeting or it could continue the hearing to a future date. Whenever the plan gets preliminary approval from the Plan Commission, it will then move to the village board for preliminary approval.

Once that happens, the project will go back to the Plan Commission for final approval and then on again to the village board for the final signoff. If the project wins final approval, it’s Francis’ plan to donate the land to the Brookfield United Methodist Church, which would then oversee construction and operation of the building.

The last major construction project at Eight Corners was a notable expansion of the First National Bank of Brookfield in 1997.

Assistant Village Manager Keith Sbiral, who is also head of the Brookfield Building and Planning Department, reserved judgment on the plan, saying he hadn’t completed his analysis yet.

“I think they did a good job at pulling together a comprehensive plan for submittal,” Sbiral said. “A lot of thought went into this. There are still some concerns and code issues, but we’ll sort through those at the Plan Commission meeting.

“And I’m sure the business community will have questions about competition from a nonprofit.”

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