Making good on a campaign promise to start focusing sharply on economic development, Brookfield officials on Thursday hosted its first-ever developer breakfast to tout the village’s commercial corridors and TIF districts, highlight potential incentives and signal the village’s willingness to work with developers to make plans a reality.
The event, which drew about 20 professionals in the commercial real estate, development and financial industries, follows on the heels of a month-long radio advertising campaign targeted at developers.
“We want to ensure you that you can make money on development in Brookfield,” Brookfield Village President Kit Ketchmark told the group, who sat at round tables set up in the council chambers of the village hall. “Brookfield is very interested in working with developers.”
Among those attending was Tim Hague, president of Keystone Ventures LLC, which was responsible for developing the northeast corner of Harlem and Cermak in Berwyn and who was involved in major development projects in Oak Park and River Forest when he was with Taxman Corp.
Brookfield had not been on his radar previously, he said, but Thursday’s event has changed that.
“I was struck by the fact that they seem like a well-organized municipality and one that has put some purposeful thought into how they approach economic development,” Hague said. “I’ll make it a point to follow up and invest time with staff to identify what are some development opportunities.”
David King, an Oak Park-based commercial real estate broker, has previously worked with Brookfield; he helped the village in its acquisition of the property at 4006 Blanchan Ave.
He called the developer breakfast “a great first start.”
“You’ve got to start with introducing or reintroducing the community to key players,” said King.
The key, said King, is to maintain the momentum and for village staff to work with developers looking for opportunities — from the village manager’s office to building department clerks.
“The attitude of city hall is crucial,” said King.
John Novinson, an associate with Korman, Lederer and Associates LLC, a North Shore corporate real estate firm, said Brookfield is “underappreciated” by developers. His firm became interested in the near west suburbs after landing a development opportunity in Cicero.
“I think the community has shown it’s in it for the long haul,” said Novinson. “This is an underappreciated area. Unfortunately, we got to appreciate it in . Hopefully there are brighter days ahead.”
In 2010, Brookfield hired Novinson as the listing agent for its property at the corner of Ogden and Eberly avenues. While at least one deal came close to reality, the economic downturn was a killer. The constricted site was also problematic.
“Investors backed out because of the economic circumstances of the last few years, or users had problems with the configuration of the property,” said Novinson.
Assistant Village Manager Keith Sbiral, who is Brookfield’s director of building and planning, said the radio advertising and developer event were phase two in the village’s economic development strategy; the first was creating the two TIF districts along Ogden Avenue and getting the village’s financial house in order.
In the coming months, Sbiral said the village’s building and zoning codes will finally go live online after years of tweaking the document. The final product must first be considered by the Plan Commission and village board.
In addition, Sbiral will begin bolstering the information available to developers on the economic development portal that’s now part of the Brookfield village website.
As for making sure everyone inside village hall understands the need for good customer service, Sbiral said it’s a priority.
“It’s something we’re trying to improve every day,” Sbiral said. “The vast majority of people get good customer service. We need to make sure we provide exactly what we say we’re going to provide.”
Sbiral is expected to update the village board on economic development matters at a special meeting of the village board on Thursday, Oct. 24. But he came away from the Oct. 10 event convinced the village’s strategy was on the right path.
“This did what it was supposed to do,” said Sbiral who organized the developer event. “It got people into Brookfield. When the economy does turn around, Brookfield is going to be like a blank canvas.”
Sbiral was one of a handful of village officials who spoke at the event. Village President Kit Ketchmark and Village Manager Riccardo Ginex also made short presentations, as did representatives from the village’s TIF consultants, Kane McKenna Capital Inc.
While Sbiral made sure to mention the village’s downtown, Eight Corners, 47th Street and Hollywood commercial areas, the focus was clearly on Ogden Avenue, where some key properties are available and where the village has invested its own money to help influence future development.
Two Ogden Avenue businesses which have worked in the past on developing their properties, William Klump of Brookfield Express Car Wash and Dan and Cindy Howard of D.J.’s Scuba Locker were also present to mingle with developers, as well as Chris DiBraccio, the owner of Brixie’s Saloon on Ogden and president of the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce.
Those kinds of family-owned businesses, what Sbiral called the street’s bread and butter, are very important for the future and are examples of the smaller-scale development on Ogden Avenue.
That development is as important as attracting national chains, said Nicholas Greifer of Kane, McKenna.
“You don’t have to swing for the fences and have a large-scale project to be successful,” said Greifer, who emphasized TIF incentives might be able to reduce a developer’s costs by up to 20 percent for a modest project on Ogden Avenue.