A Brookfield apartment building development that appeared to be left for dead has been resurrected and, with some modifications to the plan, could be headed for reality later this year.
Michael Gatto, the president of Oak Brook-based Grossdale Properties LLC, who won unanimous approval for a nine-unit apartment building at 8934 Fairview Ave. back in May 2014, appeared before the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission on June 23 to pitch a reworked version of the plan.
But commissioners delayed a vote on the new plan after expressing concerns about design elements, the location of the proposed building on the lot and the poor state of the gravel alley running behind the parcel west to Sunnyside Avenue. The commercial alley east of the property is paved.
“Globally, a nine-unit residential building on this lot is absolutely the right fit,” said Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Charles Grund. “I think if you bring us something that we can wrap our arms around more carefully and we can consider it a little bit more carefully, I suspect you might get a positive outcome.
“But I don’t think we’d be doing our job properly if we took this as it is, voted on it and sent it to the trustees.”
The case has been continued to the Planning and Zoning Commission’s next meeting, which is scheduled for July 28.
When first submitted in 2014, the plan did not receive a positive recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission, which deadlocked 3 to 3 on the final plan. But the village board ultimately approved the final plan by unanimous vote.
By July 2015, the project was in limbo with Gatto failing to obtain financing for the construction of the building. He put the property on the market, but he was unable to get any interest apart from an inquiry by Scott Sanders, a Brookfield resident whose company, BrightLeaf Homes, specializes in highly energy-efficient single-family home construction.
Sanders told the Landmark he was interested in building townhomes on the property. In the end, Gatto and Sanders joined forces and revived the idea of an apartment building incorporating energy-efficient design.
The resulting design is similar to what was proposed in 2014, though the materials used on the exterior differ, eschewing brick for a combination of brick, fiber cement panels and fiber cement lap siding with cedar cladding on exterior balconies.
While the original building design met with resistance from the commission back in 2014, the changes in materials also were not met with universal approval. Grund and Commissioner Patrick Benjamin in particular criticized elements of the design, with Benjamin saying the new look didn’t conform with the 2020 Master Plan, which calls for a “traditional” look for new buildings in the Prairie/Grand district.
Instead of six two-bedroom units and three one-bedroom units, the new plan calls for three each of three-bedroom, two-bedroom and one-bedroom units. The development is being marketed to young professional families, according to Gatto, and rents are estimated at between $1,100 and $1,900 per month depending on the size of the unit.
The footprint of the building is also slightly smaller, allowing the development to be set back about three feet from the west lot line. The prior plan called for the building to be placed on the west lot line.
But like the original plan, the new one calls for parking both in front of and behind the building, something that was universally panned by village planners and members of the Planning and Zoning Commission and appears likely to be changed by the time the commission considers the plan again next month.
Finally, commissioners seemed eager for the developer to assist in some way with paving the gravel alley behind the property.
“If the parking is shifted to the rear, as it should be, you’re going to be probably one of the most principal users of the alley,” Benjamin said. “This needs to get fixed … and I expect you to participate in that at a significant level.”
Gatto and Sanders both worried that the additional expense might be enough to kill the deal.
“Any more financial burden on the project and you might not be able to get it off the ground,” Gatto said. “The other side of it is, we don’t even know what it costs.”
Gatto submitted a new final planned development application with the village on May 27. That is two years to the day since the Brookfield Village Board voted unanimously to pass an ordinance approving the original final plan.
According to the ordinance passed on May 27, 2014, Gatto had 24 months in which to either substantially complete the project or obtain an extension from the village board. Failure to do either would result in the ordinance becoming null and void.
Since the village board did not act to extend the ordinance, it expired May 27. But because the new submittal essentially is the same as the old one in terms of the size of the building and its placement on the lot, Village Manager Keith Sbiral determined that the planned development process could be expedited.
Sbiral said that a new ordinance would have to be passed by the village board, but that it made no sense to require Gatto to restart the process from scratch, since the new plan was essentially the same as the one previously approved.
“In my mind, any construction at this point requires action by the corporate authorities to do anything moving forward,” Sbiral said in response to an inquiry from the Landmark about the planned development process. “Should this move forward in that ordinance, a new time frame for a new approval will have to be granted.”
Planning and Zoning Commissioner Patrick Benjamin also questioned why the final planned development application was coming back to the commissions as a “continued” discussion since 24 months already had passed since it was approved by the village board.
“It would seem to me that if construction did not commence before May 27, 2016, it goes away,” said Benjamin, who said he supported allowing developers to go through the preliminary and final planned development processes at the same time instead of spreading them out over months. “You want to make sure you’re on solid [legal] ground.”