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Group seeks to revitalize Brookfield's original village

July 15, 2014

It's easy to forget where you came from.

For the City of Brookfield, officials and citizens are doing their best to make sure that that doesn't happen.

Brookfield's village area, resting on N. Brookfield Road near the railroad tracks, features banners on the streetlights that read "Where it all began." Now, people are hoping that the village can be where it all continues.

"Part of what has fueled the interest in the village area is that it is the historic area of settlement. It's where Brookfield started," City of Brookfield Director of Economic Development Tim Casey said. "That's why you see things like the farmers market. It's all about creating that sense of community."

Casey pointed to the creation of Brookfield Village Limited as being a catalyst for the renewed efforts to rejuvenate the area.

Brookfield Village Limited is a not for profit organization created in 2013 that is run by a board of directors. The group is made up of property owners, business owners, and residents.

"It was an idea that came from people in the village area. We've been working with them closely," Casey said.

The group was started by Dawn Farina and Paula Moylan, owner of Urban Upcycle.

"I met her and we just started talking. I was so excited that she moved into the village. We have got to revitalize this area. It's such a great area," Farina said. "We decided to team up and start this movement."

The response wasn't instant.

"We had three people at our first meeting," Farina said. "Now we have 25."

Farina is a lifelong resident of Brookfield who works as an artist out of a studio in her home. She lives right around the corner from the village and has been disappointed to see it lose some of its liveliness.

"Seeing it go through the struggles that it has for all these years, I just felt like there's other villages that been revitalized successfully. Why is it that this area can't seem to come to life?" Farina said. "I'm just wanting new businesses like Paula's to succeed."

For Casey, the issue hasn't been really that the village has wilted or changed, but merely that there are other nearby areas that can offer much more.

"You've got major commercial corridors in Brookfield on Bluemound and on Capitol Drive," Casey said. "The common denominator for people has been 'Hey, this is the historic center of activity. What can we do to make it more than it is?'"

Casey noted that the area has seen a slight growth spurt in recent years.

"We're seeing additional retail and service businesses come into the area. In the last couple of years now you've had Urban Upcycle, Goody Two Shooz, Biloba Brewing, and now you've had 29ten Salon open up," Casey said.

Casey also noted that businesses looking to move into the village can participate in a loan pool, courtesy of First Bank Financial Center, which will allow qualifying village interests to receive loans for $10,000 to $25,000 at one percent interest.

Most recently, the city unveiled a new parking lot off of Hoffman Avenue that will serve two purposes.

"The reason for the parking lot was to triple the amount of off-street parking available in the village so that we can continue to accommodate the businesses that have moved in already and also accommodate additional business growth," Casey said. "But it also doubles very nicely as a new location for the farmers market."

The village farmers market is in its second season, and Farina says that growth and popularity are already on the rise.

"The main focus is to get people into the village. We've got a lot of really great vendors, around 20 now," Farina said.

Difficulties for the village and its market have been exacerbated by recent road closures, with River Road being inaccessible due to flooding and the roundabout construction at the intersection of Brookfield Road and North Avenue.

"Part of the challenge for the next seven weeks is directing people there," Casey said.

While redevelopment and rejuvenation are certainly goals for both city officials and Brookfield Village Limited, they also don't want the village to lose its historic charm.

"It's absolutely critical to maintain the character of the area. Everything is predicated on there being historic buildings which should be preserved. Other buildings that are built should be in an architectural style that complements what's down there," Casey said.

In May, the city of Brookfield approved a zoning change that would allow buildings in the village area to reach three stories tall as opposed to the previous limit of 2 1/2 stories; however, officials will still be reviewing any new buildings to make sure that they conform with architectural de-sires.

"There's a lot going on, but we want to see even more," Farina said. "The village is a part of the city. It was hiding, and we're trying to bring it to life."

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