Major projects falter in down economy

Percheron Square nearing deadline for moving ahead

Sept. 8, 2009

A little less than a year ago, the Brookfield Common Council backed a massive, mixed-use development plan for a 66-acre site between Interstate 94 and Bluemound Road, creating a template for the multiple phases of the Percheron Square project.

Earlier last year, the Common Council showed its support for the 127,000-square-foot Fountain Brook Crossing building that would tower 100 feet over the northeastern corner of Moorland Road and Greenfield Avenue. The green-friendly medical specialty building would have an indoor waterfall and a rooftop garden.

But almost 20 months after the first of the two projects was approved, both properties still sit vacant, the projects stalled by financing problems and a sagging economy.

"The state of the economy has affected (the projects)," Brookfield Director of Community Development Dan Ertl said. "I suspect you'll find similar conditions relative to the state of the economy (in other communities)."

Percheron Square

Long-gestating plans for the Ruby Farms-WTMJ property between Bluemound Road and I-94 came in front of the city last year. AVS Development outlined a multiple-year plan for the site, which was set to see a mix of office, retail and residential uses. The Ruby farmstead was to remain intact on the west side of Calhoun Road.

Final plans approved in October 2008 called for 641,000 square feet of office space, retail along Bluemound Road, an 80-unit senior-living center, 215 condominium units and an extended-stay hotel.

AVS has until Oct. 21 to submit engineering, landscaping and site plans for the project - dubbed Percheron Square after the breed of horses formerly raised on the Ruby farm - but Ertl said it is likely AVS will let its rezoning approval expire and reapply with new plans.

If the rezoning expires, AVS will have to go through the entire approval process, including public hearings and appearances before the Plan Commission and Common Council, with the new plans, Ertl said.

Paul Quick, a principal with Capstone Quadrangle, a commercial real estate development firm formerly involved with Percheron Square, said development has been slow at the site because of struggling real estate and financial markets.

He said demand for commercial and office space is not dropping anymore, but it is not increasing much either.

"The real estate market seems to be somewhat stable, but it's at a low point," he said. "There aren't a lot of reasons to believe it's on an upward course."

Ryan Cos. has taken over as lead developer for the Percheron Square project, but officials from Ryan or AVS could not be reached for comment.

Fountain Brook Crossing

Another project expected to be well under way by now is Fountain Brook Crossing, a massive mixed-use development at Moorland Road and Greenfield Avenue.

The Common Council in February approved rezoning the roughly 2-acre site to allow the 97-foot-tall building. Some aldermen and neighbors had expressed concern about the building's size.

The rezoning expired in February, and, Ertl said, the owner of the site has revised plans and is likely to come forward with a new proposal - perhaps for a one- or two-story mixed-use development - that would fit the base zoning and not require any changes.

Still, as with the Percheron Square project, any new plan would need the approval of the Plan Commission and the Common Council, Ertl said.

Representatives from property owner WMH Leasing could not be reached for comment.


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