Toward the end of a roughly 90-minute presentation at the Brookfield Village Hall on June 10 regarding future real estate redevelopment and streetscape improvements along the Ogden Avenue corridor, an audience member asked a question that got to the heart of the matter.
“What kind of timeline are you predicting for completion of most of this?” the man asked the panel of three consultants leading the Ogden Avenue study, known as “Energize Ogden.”
There have been other studies of the Ogden Avenue corridor in the past and of the village generally, the most recent of which was a new comprehensive plan adopted by the village board in 2018, which supplanted the Brookfield Master Plan adopted in 2004, and which also called out for a closer look at Ogden Avenue and provided examples of how it could be redeveloped.
Despite those earlier efforts, the Ogden Avenue streetscape of today looks a lot like the Ogden Avenue streetscape many years ago, with a few exceptions.
Daniel Grove, a planner from the consulting firm Kimley-Horn who is leading the Ogden Avenue study, had a frank and possibly disappointing answer to the man’s question.
“I don’t think you’re ever going to reach completion,” Grove said. “The goal is to continue to make progress and to continue to try to steer towards a vision that’s supported by the community.”
As anyone who has been around Brookfield long enough can tell you, the community vision for Ogden Avenue isn’t necessarily uniform and it changes. Much of what might be possible also depends on property owners, what might motivate them to improve their properties or to either lead redevelopment efforts or sell them so others might assemble properties that make redevelopment attractive.
The Energize Ogden effort, begun earlier this year and expected to wrap up this fall, isn’t meant to be a blueprint for future development. Rather, Grove said, the goal is to provide the village with a “toolbox” to help them accomplish broad goals.
Some of those goals include eliminating some of the challenges which keep developers and visitors from seeing Ogden Avenue as anything more than a four-lane highway moving vehicles from Point A to Point B.
Kimley-Horn has created a website for the Energize Ogden study, which can be found here.
An earlier public meeting, held virtually in March, drew around 20 people and established that the corridor featured a wealth of auto-related and service businesses, but that it was retail and restaurant businesses that people were most interested in seeing more of. In addition, they wanted more attractive building facades and landscaping and improved access to parking.
In order to make that more possible, the consultants on June 10 highlighted some concepts, including creating more angled parking on streets immediately north and south of Ogden Avenue, consolidating driveways to provide more strategic access to properties and eliminate rolled curbs in order to make the corridor more pedestrian friendly.
Participants at the June 10 meeting especially favored eliminating rolled curbs, which allow vehicles to drive up and park on sidewalks, because there is no parking on Ogden Avenue itself.
They also favored the consultants’ concept to widen sidewalks and plant parkway trees, where possible, install decorative streetlights and have the village work with property owners whose buildings are set back from the property line to improve landscaping.
One concept that also drew favorable reactions from the 25 or so people who attended the June 10 session was strategic use of murals, for example at the western end of the Galloping Ghost Arcade, as a way to beautify the corridor.
They also preferred any new development to be mixed-use buildings that included interior parking areas that could be shared.
Village Manager Timothy Wiberg, who was present at the June 10 meeting, said it could take years for some aspects of the final corridor study to come to fruition and will be complicated by the fact that the Ogden Avenue right-of-way – which includes the sidewalks as well as the roadway – is under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Transportation.
“The goal here is for this plan to be developed,” Wiberg said. “Once you have a plan, you can shop that around to federal and state officials and seeks grants for it. I think we have a pretty good chance of getting significant grant money once we have a plan and have identified this is the vision we want to accomplish.”