Through the national economic slowdown – and a fiscal crisis of its own that hit at the same time – Brookfield has been slow in attending to economic development in the past decade or so.
The village board did lay some groundwork prior to the crash, creating an Ogden Avenue TIF District and a smaller Congress Park TIF adjacent to it. The village has also acquired a few properties over the years near the western gateway to Brookfield along Ogden Avenue.
But residents have been frustrated with the results to date — vacant properties and few clear signals from the village that something is coming to improve the situation.
At long last, however, officials have begun to shake off the development cobwebs. Whether the timing is now right or whether officials have more time to focus on it after reacting to the financial meltdown and subsequent internal technological issues, there appears to be some action on the economic development front.
One of the first orders of business for the village is merging the Zoning Board of Appeals and Plan Commission into one group. That should streamline development approvals down the road and give Brookfield a qualified group of people to deal with such matters.
The second order of business is getting out the message that “Brookfield is open for business.” Part of that effort will be an internal one — finally getting the zoning ordinance revised so that it reflects contemporary reality instead of a patchwork of codes that allowed for past uses to exist.
Another part of that job is actually getting the message out to current business owners in town, the development community, and to residents that Brookfield is finally ready to embrace the kind of change necessary to make successful development on Ogden Avenue happen.
We’re guessing that when such projects actually hit the public drawing board, there will be some pushback from residents who live nearby. Village officials need to tread carefully there but should keep in mind the point of this new business-friendly outlook: to transform Ogden Avenue into an economic engine for the village.
Officials are pointing to an October event for developers to kick off the push and enlist interested parties. It’s up to them to now make good on the promise to make Brookfield a player instead of a bystander when it comes to redeveloping Ogden Avenue.
But officials also need to make sure that in the push to revitalize Ogden Avenue, they don’t overlook other commercial areas in the village, like Grand Boulevard, Broadway Avenue, 31st Street and 47th Street.
Those areas are also important — perhaps more so to local residents who frequent the older, central shopping districts.
But the village is on the right track in its approach and will need to keep the momentum going past October and keep actively marketing and interacting with potential developers and business people to convince them that Brookfield is a destination and a place to invest.