Abby Brennan (File 2018)

Almost exactly a year ago, Abby Brennan was just beginning to clear the cobwebs from her downtown Brookfield business, Brennan Massage and Spa at 3700 Grand Blvd., which had been shut down completely for more than two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a skeleton crew following strict pandemic protocols, since the business is very much a hands-on operation, customers were returning to Brennan Spa at a crawl during the summer of 2020.

But as 2021 heads into July, the spa is operating pretty close to pre-pandemic levels, Brennan said.

“I think people are very much in need of what we offer,” Brennan said. “It’s been so stressful and hard in so many ways, people are resorting to body care.”

At the same time, Brennan is planning some care for the building her 14-year-old business inhabits and has secured the first Brookfield Property Improvement Program (PIP) grant since the initiative was unveiled this spring as a way to motivate commercial property owners in the village’s TIF districts to spruce up their buildings’ exteriors.

The Brookfield Village Board on June 28 voted unanimously to approve the grant, which is a modest one given what the village is potentially offering as a match. Brennan intends to clean and paint the front porch of the former single-family home; power wash, sand and stain the porch deck; paint the building siding and replace the monument sign with one that Brennan would like to hang from the front porch eaves, framed by two columns.

All of that work will cost an estimated $5,290, with the village’s grant reimbursing Brennan for half of that cost.

Brennan had been planning the exterior improvements, and when she got an email from the village pitching the grant program to her, she jumped at the chance.

“I’d be a fool not to look into it,” said Brennan, who so far is the only Brookfield business owner to submit a grant application. “I can’t believe I’m the first and only, but there is some process. It’s just kind of have to get started and see where it takes you.”

Brennan’s grant application is complicated by her request to include the new sign, which doesn’t fall neatly into any category in the sign code. The SA-4 zoning district where Brennan Spa is located allows projecting signs, wall signs and window signs, and the proposed sign isn’t any of those.

Since the business opened in 2007, Brennan Spa has had a monument sign mounted on poles out front. When the Station Area Zoning Code was written, it prohibited monument signs in the SA-4 district.

Brookfield Planner Kendra Kuehlem said she’s interpreting the proposed hanging sign as a projecting sign, which the code limits to an area of seven square feet. In effect, however, the proposed sign doesn’t project and visually would be more similar to a wall or window sign, whose dimensions are closer to what Brennan is proposing. Another complicating factor is the lot itself, a pie-shaped parcel on a corner.

As a result, the sign portion of the grant reimbursement will depend on a recommendation from the Brookfield Planning and Zoning Commission, which will consider Brennan’s request for the sign at their July 22 meeting at 7 p.m. at the Brookfield Village Hall, 8820 Brookfield Ave.

Either way, however, the exterior improvements are scheduled to begin in mid- to late-July.