It took three years, but developer Michael Gatto heaved a sigh of relief last month when a backhoe finally began excavating the foundation of a new nine-unit apartment building at 8934 Fairview Ave. in Brookfield.

The shovels officially went into the ground Feb. 22, but Gatto, of RMG Realty; his co-developer Scott Sanders, of BrightLeaf Homes; and a group of ceremonial shovel-wielding village officials celebrated that moment at a brief event on the afternoon of March 3.

“It’s been a long road, but we’re finally in the ground,” said Gatto. “I think the timeline we’re on is a perfect storm for this to be a successful project.”

The moment last week was far from inevitable. The Brookfield Village Board gave the OK to an earlier version of the plan back in June 2014, but Gatto had trouble obtaining financing and by the summer of 2015, the project was on life support and the property was for sale.

But, said Gatto, the village’s then-new community and economic development director, Nick Greifer, steered him toward a possible partner in builder Scott Sanders. While Sanders had only done single-family development in Brookfield, he was familiar with the village’s processes and brought a philosophy of “green” construction to the project.

“The next thing I knew,” said Gatto. “I had a contractor.”

The two completely overhauled the concept of the building, using energy-efficient materials and relocating the structure on the lot. The three-story Signature Apartments, as the development is known, will house three three-bedroom, three two-bedroom and three one-bedroom apartments.

The village board green-lighted the new plan in September 2016. While it was approved before the village board passed the new form-based Station Area Districts zoning code, which includes the site, the revised plan conforms to the intent of the plan in terms of building type, density and other factors. It’s the first multi-unit apartment building in decades to be built in Brookfield.

“It’s important to our density project,” said Greifer. “It moves us forward in terms of density.”

Sanders said construction will take six to seven months and that he and Gatto are looking for tenants to start moving in early this fall.

Both men are looking to partner on other projects in Brookfield and have pondered acquiring the triangular-shaped property that’s for sale across Fairview Avenue from the future apartment building.

The site, however, once housed a gas station and the fuel tanks are still underground, said Sanders. Any buyer would have to test the site to see the extent of the soil contamination, which would cost $8,000 to $10,000.

But Gatto says there are other spots in Brookfield to develop, not just in the downtown area.

“I’d like to stay local and get more projects in town,” Gatto said. “There are a lot of opportunities in Brookfield, not only just along the train line.”