After years of depressed property values, an epidemic of foreclosures and stagnant real estate sales, all of a sudden Brookfield finds itself at what looks to be the beginning of a major surge in residential real estate development.

In 2014, Brookfield could see as many as seven new single-family homes — with most of the price tags topping $400,000 — completed. In addition, a nine-unit apartment building is being planned on a long-vacant property in downtown Brookfield, and several other single-family homes, formerly in foreclosure, are in store for major renovations.

“It’s a good sign for Brookfield,” said Keith Sbiral, assistant manager and building director for the village. “It shows there are folks who think the real estate market here is a good investment.

“This is more residential development than we’ve easily seen since 2008.”

At least four development companies have discovered Brookfield in recent years and have completed or are planning to complete multiple projects in 2014. In almost every instance, the developers targeted distressed properties in foreclosure, ones that would have been difficult for a typical family to renovate on their own. These developers have paid for the properties with cash.

In some instances, homes purchased in the past couple of years, such as the ones at 3315 Grand Blvd. and 3320 Oak Ave., received various levels of renovation, from moderate to major. Some, like the homes at 3637 Prairie Ave., 4010 Grove Ave. and 3710 Blanchan Ave., were torn down to the foundations and rebuilt as new homes.

Why Brookfield? All of the developers the Landmark talked to drew similar conclusions — affordable housing stock, good schools and the village’s access to downtown Chicago.

“Our demographic is between 32 and 45 years old. These are people moving out of the city, looking to stay close to the city but without having to pay city prices,” said Brian Welch, chief operating officer with a development company called Arnold Wesley LLC, which is looking to complete about a dozen major renovations in Brookfield.

Arnold Wesley was formed in 2007, just as the real estate market crashed. Welch’s company is backed by about 120 investors, he said, and began buying up distressed houses in Berwyn, where Arnold Wesley has renovated about three dozen homes.

The company’s philosophy is different in that Arnold Wesley doesn’t just do a quick cosmetic fix and flip of the properties, said Welch.

“We’re trying to deliver a new construction home at rehab prices,” Welch said. “But we do sell at the top of the market.”

Their project at 3710 Blanchan Ave. is an example of that kind of extensive renovation. The former one-story, 1,000-square-foot Cape Cod has been transformed into a two-story, 3,000-square-foot home with four bedrooms and three baths.

According to Welch, there are buyers who will pay a premium for that kind of major rebuild. It’s listed for $479,000 and he’s had serious offers.

“I’ve already turned down offers of $434,000 and $435,000 for the house,” Welch said.

Welch is also exploring new construction in Brookfield as well. Welch has put in an offer for a long-vacant property in the 3500 block of Forest Avenue, where he said he would like to build a single-family home.

In 2014, it looks as if there will be at least seven new homes constructed from the foundation up, speculative ventures that developers hope will turn a tidy profit.

“With our [new] home on Congress Park, we’re going to push the envelope,” said Tom Frenkel, owner of DT Group, a Lisle-based company that started rehabbing distressed properties in Brookfield about two years ago. “The new home is a personal thing. We want people to know we’re in Brookfield and going to stay in Brookfield.”

DT Group purchased the property at 8834 Congress Park Ave. last August. The company is renovating the existing home, which sits on the western half of the 120-foot lot, and has already listed it at $434,900.

Frenkel said the company is dividing the lot in order to build a new home on the eastern half — a 3,800-square-foot, two-story home that he says “will be probably be one of the biggest houses in Brookfield.” It certainly will have one of the biggest price tags ever seen in the village, at between $525,000 and $550,000.

DT Group sold a home it rebuilt at 4010 Grove Ave. last June for $360,000.

Less than a block away on the south side of the street, two new homes tentatively have been planned at 8819 Congress Park Ave. In this instance, a home long known as a neighborhood property maintenance problem will be razed to make way for the new homes.

Before that can happen, the village needs to approve subdividing the lot, which is substandard in terms of depth. However, there is precedent for such a lot division on that same block. Back in the mid-1990s, developer Sam Memeti subdivided the two lots closest to Custer Avenue and built two homes, one of which he lives in today.

Memeti, a commercial real estate and development specialist for Re/Max City, is involved in the proposed 8819 Congress Park Ave. development as well.

“It’s definitely going to be a completely different picture over there,” said Memeti “[The existing home] is definitely an eyesore for that block.”

Meanwhile, there’s some momentum building for the Brookfield-based company BrightLeaf Homes, which builds highly energy-efficient homes that are designed to meet LEED standards.

BrightLeaf is presently building two new energy-efficient homes in the 4100 block of Grove Avenue and later this month is expected to close on the old Brookfield Presbyterian Church property at 3545 McCormick Ave., where the company plans to build two more homes in 2014.

The company’s owner, Scott Sanders, is a Brookfield resident who said Brookfield may finally be getting the attention from developers that it missed during the last great single-family residential development boom.

Part of the reason for that is that Brookfield maintains a good housing stock and the number of foreclosures and short sales in the village have made it extremely attractive to developers like BrightLeaf.

“In places like LaGrange and Western Springs, [prices for] lots are crazy,” said Sanders. “Brookfield has missed out for a while, but it seems like it’s about time for the village. There are [three] stops on the train line, which is very attractive to people commuting to the city.”

Sanders’ first energy-efficient home was a major rehab of the home at 3315 Grand Blvd., which he completed in 2012. Last year, he built his first from-the-ground-up house at 3637 Prairie Ave., which he sold last October to a Berwyn family for $421,500.

One of the two Grove Avenue homes under construction (a 2,880-square-foot, cottage-style home) is already listed for $418,600.

Apartment building planned for downtown Brookfield

An Oakbrook Terrace-based realty company plans to build a three-story, nine-unit apartment building on a vacant parcel of land at 8932-36 Fairview Ave., which was once owned by the village of Brookfield.

The Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission will consider RMG Realty’s preliminary planned development application at a meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Brookfield Village Hall.

The development will require a number of zoning variations. Exactly how many is not clear at this time, but the building likely will require a variance from the number of parking spaces needed, side-yard setback requirements and height restrictions.

Plans on file with the village’s building department indicate that developers want to build a reddish-brown brick structure that will contain six two-bedroom and three one-bedroom apartments, each with an exterior balcony.

The building would be set back from the front lot line in order to provide an asphalt parking lot in front of the building. There would also be a smaller parking lot behind the structure.

Set on a 75-foot lot, the building would stretch from lot line to lot line, according to the plan.

“I think what’s key from a planned development standpoint is that the property is zoned C3 commercial, but we really don’t want commercial here, because there are plenty of vacancies downtown,” said Keith Sbiral, the village of Brookfield director of planning and zoning.

The property for years belonged to the village of Brookfield, which sold it in 2005 for $324,000. The buyer at the time wanted to assemble several parcels along Fairview Avenue and Grand Boulevard to build a large-scale, mixed-use development.

However, the plan never materialized and in 2007 the property again changed hands. In 2012, the First National Bank of Brookfield obtained the deed to the property, selling it on Dec. 16, 2013 for $123,000 to Grossdale Properties LLC, a company tied to real estate developer Michael Gatto, of Oakbrook Terrace. Illinois Secretary of State records list Gatto as the sole “member” of the management firm tied to RMG Realty.

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