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Town of Brookfield skeptical of proposed housing across from Corners

Jan. 29, 2014

Town of Brookfield officials were critical Tuesday of a proposal from Wimmer Communities to construct a mixed-use development just north of the Corners project, on Brookfield and Barker roads, with 117 apartment units and about 5,700 square feet of retail space.

Despite concerns about starting work on another development while consumed with execution of the Corners across the street, members of the Plan Commission voted 4-3 to schedule a public hearing to consider changing the land use allowed at the site to be mixed-use.

"We see this as a first step before working with the town to determine the best layout for the property," Wimmer Communities President Mark Wimmer said.

A smaller project

The project would be smaller than the Corners. Dubbed the Poplar Creek Club for the water running to its east, Wimmer said it would be marketed to a different audience — one looking for less of an urban feel.

"We don't think it's necessarily desirable to duplicate what's happening at the Corners with the same amount and intensity of development," Wimmer said. "We think we're additive to the neighborhood."

The parcel that interests Wimmer starts east of F & F Tire World on Bluemound, and runs northwest between existing buildings and Poplar Creek. He said his company is under contract to buy the land.

Under the concept Wimmer showed to the Plan Commission, there could be shops in the narrow frontage on Bluemound Road, and a private road stretching back to three apartment buildings with 39 units each.

Wimmer said the project would be entirely privately financed.

"We think this could kick-start the potential of this area and provide some connectivity, as well as leadership, as we move forward with our development," Wimmer said.

Wimmer Communities owns several housing units, hotels and retail centers in the region, including Georgetown Square Apartments in the city of Brookfield, and Foxhaven Apartments in the town.

Plan Commission worried

Several members of the Plan Commission said they were unsure whether the town should be encouraging another development so quickly after the Corners, with much of the work on that project only just beginning.

"I like the idea of putting some nice housing there, but I'd like to see the project across the street in full bore and see where we go from there," Plan Commission member Len Smeltzer said, before voting against recommending a public hearing.

Smeltzer said he thought the town should stick to the original plan of waiting until summer to bring in the businesses from the northeast corner of Brookfield and Barker roads to Town Hall to discuss changing the land to mixed use. The town has discussed creating more mixed-use areas, especially after a commissioned study in September showed the town could benefit from more multifamily housing options.

Town Board Chairman Keith Henderson, who voted as the tiebreaker, said the public hearing would be an opportunity to start that discussion.

"This is moving a little quicker than we wanted, but it's still going in the direction we wanted to go," Henderson said.

County involved in process

After the hearing, town officials will make a recommendation to the county, which will decide whether to make the land-use change. The hearing will be scheduled at the town board meeting Feb. 4, likely for Feb. 28.

The land-use change would allow the parcel to be developed for commercial or residential use, and would not be specific to Wimmer's proposal. Wimmer said if the change goes through, he would like to work closely with the town on development plans, and urged officials not to wait too long.

"To say we're not going to do anything to this until the Corners is up, I think misses an opportunity," Wimmer said. "I think this development is exactly what you were hoping would happen here."

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