Brookfield trustees this month are poised to adopt the long-awaited Ogden Avenue corridor master plan – Energize Ogden – which has been more than a year in the making and is meant to provide local officials with a set of tools to guide redevelopment of the village’s busiest commercial district.

On May 23, planner Daniel Grove of Kimley-Horn, the consulting firm hired by the village in December 2020 to lead the effort, presented the completed Energize Ogden plan to the village board.

Elected officials are expected to adopt the plan at their meeting on June 13.

The key to the Energize Ogden plan, and one touted from the outset as the best way to guide implementation, is a “toolkit” focusing on eight area — streetscape, site redevelopment, alleys, access management, building facades, building signage, parking lots and murals – seen as key to Ogden Avenue’s future as a vibrant commercial corridor.

“There’s unique challenges and there’s no one silver bullet that will address the corridor,” Grove told trustees at their May 23 meeting. “So we saw this as a series of smaller initiatives the village staff can work on, that individual property owners and business owners can work on over the next series of years.”

Each of the eight toolkits lays out goals and addresses how local government, private property owners, business owners and developers can partner in achieving them. The toolkits also lay out design guidelines to ensure a cohesive look up and down the corridor, provide implementation guidance, identify potential funding sources and suggest metrics for measuring success.

For example, the streetscape toolkit lays out goals that resulted in large part from feedback from stakeholders and the public. Streetscape beautification elements include planting trees in the public parkway, using decorative paving in highly visible areas and introducing planters and decorative street lighting.

While much of the responsibility for implementing streetscape improvements falls on local government, there is a role for developers to play. 

Any private improvements made before the streetscape is fully implemented ought to follow Energize Ogden’s guidelines so they match what’s being planned. Local government can help encourage that kind of cooperation by offering incentives funded through the Ogden Avenue TIF District.

The village itself is seeking federal grant funding through the West Central Municipal Conference to help fund the larger streetscape improvements up and down Ogden Avenue. The village is on track to receive $500,000 in 2023 through the WCMC to be put toward the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Phase I engineering for Ogden Avenue resurfacing and streetscape improvements.

Phase 1 engineering will result in several alternatives for those improvements, and the village will seek input from stakeholders and the public to settle on a preferred alternative. The village has requested another $900,000 to help fund Phase 2 engineering, but has received no word on when it might be in line to receive those funds.

It likely will take five or more years before all three phases of engineering are competed by IDOT for the Ogden Avenue corridor, which also gives the village time to work with property and business owners to solve other problems identified by the Energize Ogden relating to parking, curb cuts, building signage, property maintenance and aesthetics.

“It’ll be a lot of incremental steps that will keep Ogden Avenue moving in a way where the vision is for a really vibrant and vital corridor for Brookfield,” Grove said.

Getting the streetscape improved is perhaps the key to the plan, even if it takes years and private property owners are reluctant to invest early on. The village’s investment, Grove said, can serve as an example.

“You want to build up that momentum, that feeling that this is a special place,” Grove said. “Having some public investment and some streetscape elements is going to help lift that up and create that feeling.

According to Grove, in other towns where Kimley-Horn has developed such plans, private investment increases after the public investment is made.

Kimley-Horn has suggested that perhaps the village could target a portion of the Ogden Avenue corridor to implement a pilot program to provide an example of what the goal is long term.

The section between Arthur and Eberly avenues might be the best place to start, the plan suggests, due to the presence of some regional/national draws, including the Galloping Ghost Arcade, Imperial Oak Brewing, Skadarliya restaurant and DJ’s Scuba Locker.

Grove suggested that Galloping Ghost, which inhabits a series of rather non-descript buildings in the 9400 block of Ogden Avenue, would be a prime location for a mural that would not only beautify the corridor but make the arcade more identifiable.

“You’ve got some really cool businesses in the corridor and some amazing draws that draw people from around the world,” said Grove, who emphasized that those business owners are also heavily invested in Ogden Avenue.

“I think it’s something special here,” he added. “That’s something that can be capitalized on.”

Trustees uniformly supported the plan, especially the toolkits it contains to help guide staff and officials now and in the future.

“I’m excited for the staff, commissions and our new [economic development] commission to be able to take these pieces and work on them over time and not have it be such a big, overwhelming document, but [rather] these kind of tangible items that we can take on,” said Trustee Katie Kaluzny.

Grove said Kimley-Horn will remain involved in a consulting role and will follow up in a year to measure progress and make recommendations.