St. Barbara convent, 4000 Forest Ave., Brookfield (Bob Uphues/Editor)

The former St. Barbara Parish convent, which has sat vacant for several years at 4000 Forest Ave. in Brookfield, will be converted into a six-unit apartment building after village trustees voted 4 to 1 on July 11 to grant a special use permit and six zoning variations to a developer.

The special use permit allows for a multifamily use in a single-family residential zoning district, something elected officials felt was not a change from when the building was used as a convent.

The zoning variations also reflect the reality of the existing building, which is a non-conforming structure and was built prior to the village adopting its zoning code in 1964.

ISC Capital Series 4000 LLC, whose managers are Brandon Kurdziel and David Itah, intends on retrofitting the convent into a rental property within its existing footprint.

Kurdziel told the Landmark in a phone interview that his firm expects to close on the property within the next month, during which interior plans will be finalized by the architect, Riverside-based Zenon Kurdziel, who is Brandon’s father.

Work on the retrofit is likely to begin in August or September, Brandon Kurdziel said.

“It feels really good to be part of the community,” he said. “I’m glad we can save this building, and I think [the multifamily concept] fits well.”

 One of the zoning variations granted by the village board includes allowing the development to provide one onsite parking space per unit.

The parking area will be at the rear of the building along the alley and will be accommodated by demolishing an existing garage.

The minimal onsite parking had at least one neighboring property owner concerned about where apartment unit residents might be parking their vehicles. Brookfield presently prohibits parking on the south side of Windemere Avenue, and the developer has said it won’t be able to rent parking spots in the Holy Guardian Angels Parish parking lot, which is just across the alley to the west.

“There has been little to no discussion about what our options are to fix that,” said Ed Hand, who lives next door to the former convent on Forest Avenue, during the public comment portion of that night’s committee of the whole meeting. “It is a concern. You’re taking a 50-by-125-foot plot, and you’re going to put six families there, so thinking you’re not going to have a parking problem is crazy. It’s going to happen.”

Village President Michael Garvey said that officials would monitor what happens with respect to any parking problem once the development is leased and react to any issues once they are known.

The apartments themselves, according to a plan provided to the village during the planning review process, indicates they will have between two and five bedrooms. Three of the bedrooms will be located on the main floor and lower level of the building. Two are slated to be three-bedroom units with one being five bedrooms. The two-story main floor apartments will measure between 1,400 and 1,800 square feet.

Three more two-bedroom apartments are to be located on the second floor, with one of them featuring a “penthouse” master suite in a third-floor dormer that already exists. Two of the second-floor units will be less than 1,000 square feet with the “penthouse” unit coming in around 1,050 square feet.

The only vote against the special use permit and zoning variations came from Trustee Jennifer Hendricks, who generally supported the project but had asked that the board include a condition requiring the owner of the apartment building to maintain a fence on the south lot line to protect the Hand family’s privacy in the future.

Hand already has a fence on his north property line, but Hendricks felt that the burden of putting up a fence in the future shouldn’t fall on his shoulders.

“Maintaining a fence is a minimal cost and is not the kind of condition that would halt a financially viable project, but it would protect the neighboring property and their privacy,” Hendricks said. “This is an additional, more intensive use. Leaving that burden on the neighboring resident, I think, is harsh. …

“I believe approving the project without the fence condition prioritizes the development over the existing residents and homeowners, and I think we can do better.”

For his part, Hand called the fence requirement “somewhat of a non-issue,” but he did suggest that the village board allow the fence to be extended farther toward the Forest Avenue property line.

“That’d be fine,” Hand said. “That’d be a way to separate it from the higher-intensity use.”