Nicholas Greifer, the village of Brookfield’s community and economic development director, had a one-word message for real estate developers at the village’s second-ever developer breakfast on Nov. 4.
That’s the key to sustaining commercial development in key areas of the village, Greifer told the 25 to 30 developers and real estate professionals in attendance at the event at village hall.
In order to support existing and new businesses, the population has to be sufficient to allow them to succeed. Brookfield’s trying to think big, especially near the three Metra train stations in town.
“We think our main strategy going forward is basically to emulate what a lot of our neighbors, such as LaGrange, have done, which is to promote density,” said Greifer, who noted that the village had attempted to encourage denser developments in the past, such as the six-story condo building at Brookfield and Forest avenues in the early 2000s and in 2004 when it approved plans for another six-story building in the 4000 block of DuBois Boulevard near the Congress Park train station.
The latter development was never built and a subsequent townhome plan was scrapped after the property went into foreclosure. The village subsequently purchased the property and created a TIF district for it.
“We want to pick up the baton again on density and look for developers such as yourselves that are interested in multi-family, multi-story residential developments particularly near our train stations,” Greifer said.
Included in the handouts given to developers at the breakfast event were maps of seven Brookfield parcels that officials believe are ripe for development, many of them privately owned.
For example, among the properties included in the handout is the Pioneer Motel property and the vacant former car wash property directly east of it in the 8880 block of Ogden Avenue.
Near the Prairie Avenue train station, the village highlighted the Johnson Funeral Home property and parking lot in the 3800 block of Prairie Avenue; the pie-shaped property west of Prairie Avenue between Fairview and Brookfield avenues as well as the vacant parcel of land in the 8900 block of Fairview Avenue; and two residential properties in the 3600 block of Forest Avenue directly south of the Forest Creek condo development.
John Johnson, the owner of the funeral home, said the village hasn’t approached him about his property but said he is considering selling it. Johnson said he is talking to someone possibly interested in taking over the funeral home business.
If that doesn’t work out, however, Johnson said he’d be open to selling to a developer.
“My wife and I have talked about it,” said Johnson. “I’d rather see it stay a funeral home.
“If it doesn’t work out with that approach, [selling] could be a possibility. But there’s nothing set right now.”
In the Eight Corners area, where the village plans to create a TIF district, the village identified the Methodist Church property in the 3700 block of Grand Boulevard; the Progress Park/dry cleaning property on Broadway south of Washington Avenue; and the Brookfield Bowl building and parking lot as development sites.
The handout also included the Kago property on the northwest corner of 31st Street and Sunnyside Avenue.
The handout did not include two major potential Ogden Avenue development sites — the north side of the 8900 block of Ogden Avenue and area near Ogden/DuBois. The village has an agreement in place already to have the real estate development firm Troutman and Dams assemble land and attract end users for those sites.
Kyle Capone, a real estate broker for Baird & Warner in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago, said he especially was interested in the village’s desire for larger residential development along the rail line.
Capone’s firm is familiar with Brookfield, as it has the listing for the Brookfield Restaurant property at Prairie and Ogden.
“I see a lot of value,” Capone said. “I like the idea of some type of residential development next to one of the three train stops.”
Tim Pomaville, president of Ambrosia Homes, a Chicago-based residential home builder, said he sees Brookfield as a market for constructing apartment buildings.
“I’ve met with the village several times,” Pomaville said. “It’s just a matter of finding the right parcel to work on.”
Village Manager Keith Sbiral said that while increasing density near the three rail stations makes sense, the village needs to be sensitive to residents when they consider such proposals.
A 60-unit condo development planned for the 8500 block of Brookfield Avenue in 2006 was met by a neighborhood response so hostile that the developer withdrew the plan.
“If you’re talking to residents it’s something that’s sensitive,” Sbiral said. “You’ve got to know where to put density. Hollywood isn’t good. But there are other places you could. It’s about having an effective staff that has the pulse of elected officials and residents.”
The village touted its success in attracting development on the west end of Ogden Avenue, the realignment of its building department into a community and economic development department and its upcoming efforts to write a new comprehensive plan and revise its commercial zoning codes.
“It’s a culmination of what we’ve been working on,” said Village President Kit Ketchmark. “The staff is ready to work, the programs are in place and there have been some successes we can point to.”
David King, an Oak Park-based commercial real estate broker, attended the village’s first developer breakfast in 2013. The presentation on Nov. 4, he said, was more focused and drew the attention of the development community.
“Clearly they have some real players here,” King said. “Things are happening, and developers are always nervous about being the first one in. There’s been a dramatic change since two years ago, in a positive way.”