(Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer)

If you own commercial property in one of the village’s tax increment financing (TIF) districts and you’re planning on making improvements to the exterior of the building, parking lot or landscaping, you may qualify for a village grant of up to $20,000 to defray the cost.

In April, the Brookfield Community and Economic Development Department quietly launched a new Property Improvement Program (PIP) to encourage commercial property owners in the Eight Corners, Downtown and Ogden Avenue TIFs to improve their buildings.

The village board set aside $100,000 this year in each of the TIFs to fund projects that qualify under the terms of the program, which can be found on the village’s website brookfieldil.gov.

Michael Schwarz, who departed last week as the village’s community development director, put together the program, drawing from similar programs in towns like Lincolnwood, Oak Park and Plainfield.

Such an initiative has been on the village’s radar since trustees adopted the Brookfield Comprehensive Plan in 2018, and there was money budgeted in the 2020 budget for such a program, but it was shelved due to a combination of staffing changes and the pandemic.

“The comprehensive plan talks about improving the Ogden Avenue corridor and business districts,” said Schwarz. “By using TIF districts as a tool, we have a means of making this happen.”

PIP is not intended for new construction or building additions, interior improvements or routine maintenance projects.

Rather, the 50-50 matching grants are intended to encourage property owners to make substantial improvements to a building’s or property’s appearance.

Projects costs eligible for reimbursement under the program include exterior upgrades that will improve a building’s character; replacement of storefront elements such as doors, windows and trim; removing inappropriate architectural features on buildings and restoring original building features; replacing signs and awnings; re-roofing visible surfaces with non-standard materials (like shake or slate); extensive original masonry repair/restoration and extensive exterior painting projects.

Other eligible projects include planting trees, shrubs and groundcover; landscaped parking lot islands and for dedicated outdoor patio/dining areas.

To initiate the process, property owners must submit an application outlining the proposed improvements and meet with village staff to discuss the scope of work. Village staff will then review the application and forward it to the village board for consideration and approval.

Once approved by trustees, the village will issue a formal letter of approval for the project and grant amount. Property owners must get at least three estimates for work and obtain building permits.

After the project is complete, the village will inspect the property and verify costs before reimbursing the owner.

The village will also require any owner approved for a grant to maintain the improvements for five years. Failure to do so will result in the village clawing back a percentage of the grant award.

Green improvement grants coming

In addition, the village of Brookfield will soon launch a program called Green Infrastructure for Tomorrow (GIFT). Similar to PIP, the 50-50 reimbursement grants are open to commercial property owners in any of Brookfield’s TIF districts.

The process for obtaining a GIFT grant is identical to the PIP initiative, but can be used for sustainable building projects, like installing solar panels, energy-efficient lighting, green roofs, rain gardens and rain barrels, native plantings, permeable paver parking lots, energy-efficient windows, doors and furnaces.

Details of the GIFT program are still being finalized, including the maximum amount of the match, but the program ought to roll out in the near future, Schwarz said.