Harps Realty at Eight Corners closed in 2012, but the business signs still loom over the circle. Brookfield would like to see those "zombie" signs come down throughout town. Bob Uphues/Editor

Harps Realty called Eight Corners home for 30 years before closing its doors at that location in 2012. But five years later, you might not know that. The sunny yellow sign still towers above the Memorial Circle and the matching awnings and parking lot sign give no indication the business is now being run elsewhere, out of Jane Harps’ home in Brookfield.

Now the village of Brookfield – itself the owner of a zombie sign a block away at the Brookfield Bowl, which closed in 2011 – is looking to get rid of signs that advertise businesses that are no longer viable.

“A lot of times these get resolved with a new tenant,” said Nicholas Greifer, the village of Brookfield’s community and economic development director. “When it’s tough to get a tenant, like at Harps Realty, someone like us needs to step in.

Greifer said having such a prominent zombie sign in such a prominent location has “negative halo effect” in a business district like Eight Corners, where the village is trying to attract new development. Brookfield created a tax increment financing district for the Eight Corners area in December 2016 to help in those efforts.

“I’m surmising there are enterprising business owners that would like to redevelop that site,” said Greifer, who indicated that there is no proposal for redeveloping that site on the table at this time. 

Greifer said he’s driven through the village’s business districts to compile a list of “obvious candidates” for removal.

“A significant number of them are on Ogden Avenue,” Greifer said.

Village code already allows the village to seek removal of zombie signs, but the first step in the process is for the village to notify the building owner. After notification, according to the code, the obsolete sign must be removed within six months.

“The clock begins ticking when we get around to flagging them,” Greifer said. “That’s probably been secondary to property maintenance enforcement and economic development activities [in the past].”

Greifer said the Brookfield Community and Economic Development department likely would begin addressing the obsolete signs this spring.

After that, the department will also begin looking at encouraging business owners to replace or renovate signs that are in obvious disrepair. Greifer said he’s unsure how much pushback there might be from business owners on that, but he was “trying to get those business owners to rise to the level of their business peers.”

Looking at the Eight Corners area, for example, Greifer said, “If I’m the [Laura Atwood] Bead shop or Mary’s Morning Mix-Up, and I see some businesses who haven’t invested in the last 10 years, I’d like to see them come up to the same level of repair.”

Greifer, however, said the village doesn’t want to rush into a program targeting the signs in disrepair. Rather, he said he planned on reaching out to the business community to “get some traction” on the plan.

“We want to be deliberate and find signs that are truly in disrepair,” said Greifer, who said it was possible to rate signs condition the same way the village rates street conditions on a scale of 1 to 5.

“We don’t want it to be punitive, but to get them into compliance with our ordinances,” Greifer said. 

This article has been changed to clarify that Harps Realty is still in business, just not at its longtime former home at Eight Conrners.