Change is hard. And often good.

That’s what we see as the decoupling continues at the longtime St. Barbara’s Church campus in Brookfield. As part of the “Renew My Church” effort by the Archdiocese of Chicago, pieces of the Catholic parish are being sold off and repurposed. 

The village’s Zoning and Planning Commission last week approved a developer’s plan to convert the former St. Barbara’s School building into a 23-unit apartment building. This is a good outcome. It saves and preserves the handsome school building. It also adds housing but not density to the neighborhood which is near the Metra. And it will bring helpful added property taxes to the village.

The developer’s proposal will actually convert existing classrooms into apartments, while the open space on the building’s first floor will be subdivided into apartments. These will be 2- and 3-bedroom units, which will be welcome.

Like almost every preservation and conversion project this one will need some minor zoning variances. The 9,000-square-foot building covers just a couple of percentage points more of the entire lot than zoning allows. So that’s easy. The existing building footprint does not include the green space required by code, although the developer has a plan to add green space. And finally, of course, the project will fall short of the total number of parking spaces required. 

With its location near Metra and being in a walkable neighborhood, we’re comfortable with relaxing the spaces-per-unit requirement. Less emphasis on building for a car culture is a welcome evolution in urban/suburban planning. This is another opportunity for Brookfield to continue its shift.

The plan and the zoning variances will go before the village board this month. We look for a smooth conversion.

Infrastructure investment

Brookfield continues to invest in infrastructure. With the 2023 construction season just wrapping up, it is time to start planning your detours for the spring of 2024.

The village is rightly working on major reconstruction of key streets with work going on both below ground and at the surface level. Burlington Avenue and Dubois Boulevard will be fully remade. A new storm sewer outlet will be installed from Maple Avenue to Salt Creek.

These are major and costly projects. The village is working all angles to secure outside funding for the $5.8 million effort. Federal and state funds are committed. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District is in for $1 million. And a final grant application is pending.

There will be other, smaller, and less disruptive repaving projects next year too. 

In an older community such as Brookfield, it is always welcome news to see determined efforts to update and improve infrastructure.