More apartments inevitable in Brookfield

July 22, 2014

How does growth continue when a municipality is running out of space?

Such is the challenge for both Brookfields, the city and the town, as they look toward the future. And it appears that multifamily housing is one solution

Last week, the city of Brookfield held a public hearing for Lilly Preserve, a 77-unit luxury apartment facility being proposed for the northwest corner of Lilly and Burleigh roads. Earlier this month, the city's Plan Commission heard preliminary plans for The Corridor and cited a lack of residential accommodations as being a major concern.

"We identified this as a concern of the community with our aging population," city of Brookfield Director of Community Development Dan Ertl said. "Feedback we've received from citizen surveys says that some would appreciate more housing options."

Those citizens looking for additional options may have been filling out their responses for a variety of reasons.

"It's a lot of people who are empty-nesters. Retired people who don't want to take care of a half-acre lot anymore," Ertl said. "There's also people who might want to live in Florida, but rent up here for part of the year."

The city of Brookfield currently has 15,291 housing units, 12,415 of which are single-family units.

city of Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto sees an increase in multifamily housing offerings as being a necessity, but hopes that the community will remain largely single-family.

"Brookfield is primarily a single-family community and I certainly want it to continue to be primarily a single-family community," Ponto said. "But we also want to accommodate the groups that want more options."

Ponto and Ertl also noted it's not only retirees or homeowners looking to sell that are driving the demand for apartments or condominiums.

"There's also the situation where I think that the so-called millennial generation is waiting longer to purchase a house, both for flexibility and job moves," Ponto said.

Ertl noted that Brookfield is not alone.

"Other communities like Wauwatosa or Waukesha have added more multiple-family housing options," Ertl said. "I would say we're moderately behind the curve."

The town of Brookfield finds itself in a similar situation to its eastern neighbor. The town currently offers approximately 2,400 housing units with Building and Zoning Administrator Gary Lake estimating the number of multifamily units at 900.

The town's Plan Commission is set to discuss an amendment to its zoning code in order to increase the density permitted for residential developments.

"Our density codes are 30 years old. The (current) maximum is 7.3 housing units per acre. I've fielded development inquiries in the past year for densities between 17 and 25 units per acre," Lake said.

The need for additional housing has been illustrated to the town of Brookfield by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, which has projected a need for 1,500 new housing units in the town of Brookfield through the year 2035.

One project that will garner a significant number of multifamily housing units is already in the works: The Corners. Lake noted there has been no final tally on the number of units that will be offered by The Marcus Corp.

"We're out of land. For all intents and purposes, we have no land. There are no farm fields left to be developed," Lake said. "The only way we can meet that projection is in redevelopment."

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