Development is a funny thing. People clamor for it when they see decay and stagnation along commercial corridors. And when development finally comes, inevitably people are not satisfied with the type of development that lands there.
Part of this is simply disappointment. Everyone’s idea of what would make the perfect addition to town is different, personal. Some want chain restaurants. Some want big box stores. Some want specialty retailers.
And many people believe that local government is simply not doing enough to land their particular version of what suitable development would be.
In some cases this is true, and in Brookfield that argument could have been made for many years. But since about 2000 there have been real attempts by Brookfield government to bring development to Ogden Avenue. The addition of CVS and the creation of two TIF districts was part of that effort.
Part of the problem is also historical. Why would a car parts store want to come to Ogden Avenue in Brookfield? Well, as Ogden Avenue grew during the middle part of the 20th century it became a hub for transportation and transportation related services. Ogden Avenue was (and in some places still is) home to car dealers, body shops, service stations and, yes, auto parts retailers. As such, Advance Auto Parts fits into that narrative.
Part of the problem is Ogden Avenue itself. Lots are shallow, meaning that they aren’t fit for big-box development. And Brookfield has the misfortune of not having a north-south thoroughfare of any note intersecting with Ogden. It doesn’t have a Harlem Avenue, a First Avenue or LaGrange Road.
There’s not a parcel of land remotely close to being able to house a Costco-type development or even a large grocery store, like Tony’s or Jewel. And the only way to create such parcels is to, effectively, force people from their homes.
Finally, while residents may believe that local government can lure development or carefully guide it, there’s really only so much they can do. Apart from the land the village owns near Ogden and Eberly, the rest is in private hands. Private parties make those deals.
When Costco decided it would locate in North Riverside, it wasn’t because the mayor flew to Seattle and gave them a sales pitch. It was because there was a private owner with a huge piece of land for sale. The village’s role was to cut the property owner a welfare check.
The village’s role is in making developers feel the rewards for locating in Brookfield are worth the risks — those are the things Brookfield is now working on in earnest. And they are the things that villages must approach carefully, because they run risks as well.
Advance Auto Parts is not sexy, that’s for sure. But it is a positive step in what the village hopes will be a commercial rebirth along Ogden Avenue. Will the end result fulfill personal dreams of a diner’s row? Probably not.
Dreams need to be tempered by reality and encouraged with tools that attract all varieties of development.