Brookfield Plan Commission recommends funds for Brookfield Square expansion

June 10, 2014

Brookfield Square took a large step Monday, June 9, in gaining the city of Brookfield's financial support for a $7 million expansion.

The city's plan commission voted unanimously in favor of a recommendation to the common council for the allocation of funds from tax-incremental district #3 to assist CBL and Associates Properties in the next two phases of their future plans for the mall.

Phase VI of ongoing improvements to Brookfield Square would have the goal of being finished by June 1, 2016. Phase VI would include demolition of approximately 7,400 square feet currently occupied by Sears.

Afterward, approximately 21,000 square feet of new buildings would be constructed in front of Sears. The city's consideration of allocation includes $450,000 in for Phase VI.

"(They) would generate over $3 million in new building value," said city of Brookfield Director of Community Development Daniel Ertl. "Over the course of the remaining term of TID #3, due to expire in 2027, the amount of new tax revenue generated would more than pay for that $450,000 contribution. There's enough return on our investment."

Unlike its predecessor, Ertl warned that tax revenue for expansions created by Phase VII would not cover the amount being requested by CBL and Associates, which is $6.55 million. Still, Ertl urged commissioners to approve the recommendation.

"Elsewhere in the region, there are various forms of contributions that cities have made toward our competition," he said. "In those cases, those communities saw fit to promote the reinvestment of malls."

Phase VII would include the construction of three new buildings totaling over 50,000 square feet of retail space. The buildings would be located in front of Boston Store. This phase would also include the construction of a two-story parking garage with connections on both floors to Boston Store. CBL and Associates said currently their goal for finishing Phase VII is Dec. 31, 2018.

Ertl also noted that reinvestment in Brookfield Square has resulted in increased value for surrounding properties.

"Since 2004, the mall shops have increased (in value) from $84 million to $138 million," Ertl said. "That change, induced in part by the improvements surrounding those mall shops, means all taxing bodies have benefited."

Commissioners were united in their excitement for the projects.

"I think it's very important to the city that we continue to support CBL for the improvement of the mall," said Commissioner Greg Kost. "The influence that the mall has on all of Bluemound Road and Moorland Road and all of us in the city of Brookfield is critical."

What little concern expressed by the commission was related to the timetable of the projects rather than the financing of them.

"I'm very uncomfortable with approving this development agreement based upon your time schedules," said Commissioner and Alderman Gary Makhorn. "Not so much Phase VI, it's Phase VII. The fact that the agreement says it will start no later than November, 2017. I'm fiercely supportive of CBL and the mall. I grapple with the fact that I want to be very supportive; I'm just very uncomfortable with the time frame."

Makhorn went on to reference other developments going on in the area that have him concerned over the potential for Phase VII to be too far off in the distance.

"I follow all the developments around here, and I say, 'Wow, there's some really exciting things going on not in this community,'" Makhorn said. "We want commercial retail folks to want to land in our community."

Corbett Drew, CBL and Associates senior project manager, was on hand Monday night to answer the concerns of Makhorn and other commissioners.

"Rest assured, no one feels more urgency than we do," Drew said. "(The dates) are an outside, worst-case scenario. We anticipate timeframes to move a lot faster than that, but we didn't want to come back in asking for extensions every six months. We wanted the flexibility in the document."

While the entirety of the plan commission expressed general support of the recommendation and ended up voting unanimously, others on the sideline were not as enthusiastic.

"There's no reason for the City of Brookfield to give one specific developer $7 million for 70,000 square feet," said Alderman Chris Blackburn. "There's no reason to give money away when there are developers who are willing to spend their money. This is not a profitable business. It requires a $7 million gift from the tax payers in order to make it profitable. It's not the kind of business we want in the city of Brookfield."

Blackburn went on to note that he appreciates CBL and the importance of Brookfield Square, but believes that the city needs to draw a line.

"The line has to be at giving them money," he said. "There are other options. There's no reason to do this."

The recommendation will be viewed next by Blackburn, Makhorn and the rest of the common council on June 17.

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