More than 50 people packed the Brookfield Common Council chambers Tuesday looking for answers about how they will be affected by new apartments proposed for Sendik's Towne Centre.
"We're panicked," Charles Geiger, who lives at The Plaza near the proposed site, said at the public hearing.
Geiger, backed by other neighbors, said he is concerned the development would exacerbate the flooding the area has seen in recent years by altering the flow of stormwater.
This, along with concerns about traffic and aesthetics, came in reaction to Mandel Group's request to change parts of the Planned Development District ordinance for Towne Centre to accommodate different development plans from when the Centre was first conceived in 1999.
From office to apartments
Mandel has proposed a three-story, 36-unit luxury apartment building at the northeast corner of Thomson Drive and Richland Parkway, where Towne Centre had previously planned for a two-story apartment building. Additionally, where an office building had been planned, Mandel wants to build a two-story, 24-unit apartment complex on the southwest corner of Thomson Drive and Brookfield Road.
Bob Monnat, Mandel's chief operating officer, said the apartments would serve an aging segment of the population that wants to downsize while staying in the community.
"Brookfield has lots of large single-family homes," Monnat said. "There's a point in time when a percentage of the population doesn't want that anymore; they want to transition, and that's the demographic we look for."
Mark Wilhoite, project manager for Phillips Edison & Co., which owns Sendik's Towne Centre, said the change in plans is prudent given the current marketplace.
"Any suggestion that we pursue offices ignores the past 15 years of experience and what's forecasted for office market along the Capitol Drive corridor," Wilhoite said. "They have proposed a high-quality addition, which we wholeheartedly support."
Lori Balistreri Barczak, vice president of operations for Sendik's, also spoke in favor of the development, and several area businesses have submitted letters of support.
Some aldermen were not convinced.
"Changing it from office to residential is a big change, and there has to be justification for it," Alderman Christopher Blackburn said.
In addition to the switch to apartments, the Brookfield Road complex would be 11,000 square feet larger than had been planned for the office space. Monnat said the footprint of the development is about the same, with what had been planned for a parking lot being instead used for apartments.
"I'm not sure I'm buying what was being sold there," Alderman Bob Reddit said in response. "Why the significant need for increased size?"
Monnat said having 60 units between both buildings was a "light number" to accomplish the scale Mandel requires for its business model to provide resident services.
Issues being addressed
Monnat also addressed the flooding concern, explaining that the property would have its own stormwater management facility underground that would collect runoff, then gradually release it through a restrictor pipe onto Thomson Drive.
The Mandel Group is pursuing aesthetic changes based on resident recommendations, including using more masonry rather than paneling, making a flatter roof and recessing the balconies.
While some residents left the hearing unsatisfied, Monnat was able to win over at least one.
Peter Stillmank, who lives near the proposed site, asked if the building height would be below the city's 35-foot limit.
"I just want to make sure we're consistent and fair, that we build buildings that aren't towering over their neighbors," he said. "I spent some money getting mine down to 35 feet, and I just want to make sure you're not at 351/2 feet."
Monnat said the buildings would not exceed the limit.
"Then I congratulate you on a great plan," Stillmank said.
WHAT: Plan Commission review of Mandel Group proposals
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 2000 N. Calhoun Road
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