Proposed ‘pocket neighborhood’ would bring new style to Brookfield

Includes 16 single-family condos surrounding common courtyard area

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The city of Brookfield could soon be home to a pocket neighborhood development, which would offer small-footprint homes arranged around a shared common area.

Project developer Scott Simon, of Winter Fields LLC, filed plans with the city that call for 16 single-family detached condos for a 4.4-acre site at the northeast corner of 186th and Pleasant streets.

The project, known as Cottage Commons, is expected to be valued at $6.4 million upon completion. The work includes the demolition of two existing single-family homes and the construction of 16 upscale ranch-style houses.

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The homes would be constructed around a common courtyard, which is “designed to produce a close-knit sense of community with neighborliness and an increased level of contact,” according to the development plans.

Simon said he’s developed community-centered neighborhood projects in the past, though none were exactly like a pocket neighborhood.

He said the development would appeal to Brookfield residents who want to stay in their communities but looking to downsize from their existing homes. A pocket neighborhood provides them with an alternative to other condos or rental units in the area, in that they don’t share a wall with other dwelling units but still offer the feel of a close-knit community. They also offer more privacy with their small side yards.

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“Right now, there’s nothing that fills this niche in the market,” Simon said.

Assuming all approvals are met, he said he expects construction would commence on at least a portion of the project by summer 2020. The condo units will likely be priced around $400,000.

Simon is also vice president of development with Travaux Inc., the development arm of the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee, though he is pursuing this project privately.

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The project will be taken up at this evening’s Plan Commission meeting. The developer is requesting a rezoning of the three parcels that make up the project area.

Simon noted the site is currently zoned for multi-family, though he opted not to go that route. He said there are plenty of multi-family offerings in the area already.

“Putting it all together, a pocket neighborhood made the most sense,” he said.

Dan Ertl, Brookfield director of community development, said this type of the neighborhood would be a first for the city.

“It’s a development concept that mimics to a certain degree how communities were built years ago, and resurrecting sort of the intimate neighborly type atmosphere that maybe some of us grew up with,” he said.

Cottage Commons pocket neighborhood in Brookfield.
Cottage Commons pocket neighborhood in Brookfield. Credit: Galbraith Carnahan Architects

However, he said, the city faces the challenge of figuring out how to best accommodate the project with its existing suburban development rules and models. For instance, Brookfield and similar communities are expected to have wider streets and meet certain access criteria for fire-fighting equipment.

“Our suburban development rules weren’t set up for this urban form,” Ertl said.

In a report to commission members, city staff recommended the proposal be advanced. The project requires a public hearing and eventual approval by the Common Council.

This likely won’t be the only pocket neighborhood that Simon develops. He said he’s considering developing them in four or five communities in all.

It’s also not the first time a Milwaukee suburb has been identified for this type of urban-style neighborhood. A similar project, consisting of 23 condo units, was proposed in Mequon as part of the Foxtown mixed-use development.

Pocket neighborhoods are more widely used out west, particularly in states like Oregon and Washington, said Ertl.

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