At the junction – Brookfield Town Center


Brookfield’s old town center being rejuvenated
Once a main stopping point for trains headed to Madison and Minneapolis, Brookfield’s Old Village, the former town center located around the railroad crossing at Brookfield and River roads, today looks like the land that time forgot. Although it’s flanked by subdivisions of new residential development, the physical appearance of the Village area – an amalgam of quaintness and deterioration – makes a marked departure from the suburban. A gift shop, a mechanic’s garage, a barbershop and a tavern exist in a sort of wrinkle in time in the fabric of the once-rural Brookfield.
But new developments, including a performing arts center, a Little League diamond and additions to Brookfield Academy, along with the city’s plan to invest $1.5 million to resurface Brookfield Road and enhance its appearance in the Village area with park benches and old-fashioned style street lights may have a ripple effect on the development of the Village itself. There is already one investment company on board.
Back in March, Rick Heeren and Jim Beniak, owners of Buddy’s, a bar and grill located in the Village at 2850 N. Brookfield Road, acquired about two acres of property east and south of Buddy’s. Calling their partnership Village Junction, LLC, Heeren and Beniak are in the process of seeking approval of their development plan from the city.
The plan, which represents a potential reinvestment of $2 million to $2.5 million into the area, calls for the demolition of Buddy’s and the Coerper Lumber Co. building on the property south of Buddy’s, and for the construction of two new buildings – a loft-style 19,000-square-foot office building and a 14,000-square-foot Victorian-style building to house a restaurant and bar on the first floor and office space upstairs.
“The concept is to design two buildings that tie into the historic architecture of the area without looking like Disney buildings,” said Bruce Lynch, project architect with Kahler Slater in Milwaukee. “These will be two-story buildings with storefront glazing, but they’ll have a contemporary spin.”
The design of the loft-style building, which will face south, will emphasize natural lighting with high windows and open spaces, Lynch said, adding that natural lighting will allow tenants to save on energy costs.
The proposed style is in keeping with the city’s plans for the area. According to Brookfield Mayor Kathryn Bloomberg, the city wants design with a new spin that can relate to existing architecture without copying or trying to recreate it.
Mike Theis, assistant planner for the city, said Village Junction LLC’s proposal was well-received by the Brookfield Plan Commission, which authorized the partnership to proceed with the approval process. Village Junction LLC is applying for classification as a Plan Development District, designation which suspends ordinary zoning rules to allow a project design flexibility.
“We’re the first major private sector development project in the area,” Heeren said. “We’re hoping to be seen as a model for other developments.”
Heeren said he and partner Beniak have wanted to embark on a new project for quite some time, and decided that would involve closing Buddy’s, which they’ve owned since 1981, and opening a new restaurant in its place. The plan is to break ground next spring. Heeren hopes the development will attract upscale businesses and other tenants that will provide services for the surrounding higher-income neighborhoods.
As far as the proposed design is concerned, Heeren points to the fact that the Village once was the heart of Brookfield and says the design is an attempt to preserve some of that history while giving the area a partial facelift in step with the new surrounding developments.

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