Brookfield officials last week sought to clarify what their redevelopment goals were for property the village owns in the 4000 block of DuBois Boulevard and the 9500 block of Ogden Avenue, now that a primarily residential development pitched for the area has fizzled.
During a discussion of the subject at the village board’s committee of the whole meeting on Jan. 14, elected officials and the village’s management team agreed to make strictly commercial development a priority for the land, though they remain open to other alternatives.
High-density residential development of the type previously explored at the site is not preferable, said officials, since that type of development is more likely elsewhere, such as in downtown Brookfield.
Moreover, there’s no other location along Ogden Avenue where a development might be able to achieve some lot depth if more property can be assembled in area bounded by DuBois on the east, Blanchan Avenue on the west, Ogden Avenue on the south and the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad right of way on the north.
“You don’t have any other areas on Ogden that lend themselves to any development grander than a strip [shopping] center,” said Village Manager Timothy Wiberg in a telephone interview.
Village President Kit Ketchmark in a telephone interview said that the village board created the Ogden Avenue and Congress Park tax increment financing (TIF) districts to foster commercial development on Ogden Avenue.
Commercial development has been the village’s stated goal for that area since the adoption of the Brookfield 2020 Master Plan in 2004. However, when the village has issued requests for proposals for the former Brookfield Moose property at 4000 DuBois Boulevard, developers have not delivered.
“I think this board and previous boards looked at this site as a place where we could have some substantial development for Brookfield,” Ketchmark said. “But as we put out RFQs, developers were sending us something different back.”
The most recent serious proposal came from the real estate development company Troutman and Dams, which proposed starting by building a pair of high-density residential buildings on the former Moose property and then slowly acquiring enough property to perhaps construct a small strip mall along Ogden Avenue.
However, village officials learned that the residential development alone would require a water and sewer system upgrade costing in the vicinity of $500,000. Combined with conveying the property to the developer at low or no cost, the result was not something the village felt worth the cost.
“I don’t think we’re willing to give away property for something that doesn’t lead to future development,” Ketchmark said. “It’s very rare that you have property under your control.”
By abandoning the Troutman and Dams plan, said Ketchmark, “We were standing firm on what we wanted.”
Village Trustee Michael Garvey at the Jan. 14 meeting said he saw the area near DuBois and Ogden as an “open template.”
“I think it needs to be developed as a whole, not front and back,” Garvey said.
Trustee Michelle Ryan got more specific in the type of development she could see for the area bounded by DuBois, Ogden Blanchan and the BNSF.
“There are some things that are kind of missing in our community, and this could be an opportunity for that,” said Ryan, mentioning Aldi, a Fresh Thyme Farmers Market grocery store or a restaurant like Outback Steakhouse as examples.
“It would be nice to understand a little bit better what a true profile is from a marketing perspective to know what would fit or what matches up with these different types of businesses, so we go and reach out to some of them,” Ryan said.
The decision also reinforces the idea that if there is to be any type of large commercial development there, either a developer, the village or a combination of the two are going to have to assemble more property to make it work.
Ideally, said both Wiberg and Ketchmark, the village wouldn’t be the party stockpiling property.
“I don’t think we want to be in the land-owning business,” Ketchmark said. “But if you’re going to have commercial, there has to be depth to it.”
As for how the property ends up being assembled, that’s always the tricky part.
“That’s the conundrum every community faces,” Wiberg said. “Municipalities shouldn’t be in the real estate business. That should be the private sector. In a perfect world, a developer would do that.”
There are no specific development proposals on the table for the DuBois/Ogden area at this time, Wiberg said. However, with a firm preference for commercial development understood, it will help guide decisions in the future.
“I can now definitively say the consensus is clearly for commercial development on that site,” Wiberg said.