The Brookfield Plan Commission on July 19 voted unanimously to recommend approval of a preliminary development plan to build a new Brookfield Public Library at 3541 Park Ave.
The commission’s hearing drew a crowd of about 60 people and the reaction to the plan by those in the audience was predominantly positive.
The proposal calls for a new 38,500-square-foot, two-story, brick-and-glass building to be situated on property presently occupied by the former Brookfield United Methodist Church. The plan also asks the village of Brookfield to vacate Lincoln Avenue between Oak Avenue and Grand Boulevard and for the demolition of the existing library at 3609 Grand Blvd.
“I’m thrilled at the idea of turning this vacant church into a library,” said David Perry, who lives on Lincoln Avenue near the property and was one of eight people who spoke in favor of the project. Just one couple, Judith and William Hall, who live directly east of the church property were critical of the plan. The Halls specifically objected to the closure of Lincoln Avenue.
“I just feel we are being bulldozed,” said Judith Hall.
The library board has been exploring the possibility of building a new library since 2007, when it floated the idea of locating to the corner of Washington and Arden avenues. The library bought one lot on Arden Avenue and lined up rights of first refusal on several others before the plan was derailed.
But after Brookfield United Methodist Church, which sits across Lincoln Avenue from the library, closed its doors in June 2011 and went on the market, the library board jumped at the chance to buy it.
Although the sale has not closed yet, the library board has an agreement to purchase the property for $615,000.
Jonathan Platt, a former president of the library board, said at the hearing on July 19 that the church property represented the best chance for a new facility to be built. Platt suggested that the library was the only entity in the village actively expanding programming for residents and that the plan would provide the kind of community center it needs.
“I really think that this is it,” said Platt. “Right now the library is pretty much the sole entity in this town that’s trying to come up with activity space. … It’s not just the library; we’re looking at the village. And, from my perspective, this village needs community center space.”
The existing library site would be turned into a parking lot for about 50 vehicles. By closing off Lincoln Avenue, a public plaza that could host outdoor events would be created in front of the library.
The Brookfield Public Library board has estimated that building such a facility would cost between $9.5 and $12 million and that it would be partially financed through a property tax referendum that would go to a vote in 2-5 years.
Several residents and plan commissioners suggested that the plan include more green space and perhaps less parking to create a larger entry plaza in front of the library. And while Commissioner Charles Grund and Mike Wimmer initially questioned the scale of the proposed new library, they ended up voting with the rest of his fellow commissioners to recommend the plan, with some conditions, to the village board for preliminary approval.
The recommendation will be taken up by the Brookfield village board at their meeting on Aug. 27 and could vote on the recommendation by Sept. 10. If the village board votes to approve the preliminary planned development proposal, the library would then seek final approval from both the plan commission and village board.
That would trigger another plan commission hearing at which members of the public could voice support or opposition to the proposal.