Putting aside several years’ worth of perception that it was stuck in neutral, Brookfield is now on the march, both in commercial and residential development.
“The whole town has really gotten behind what we’re doing,” said Betsy Paynter, Brookfield Economic and Community Development manager. Once the town adopted its Plan of Conservation and Development in 2015, she said, “We all rolled up our sleeves to start work on achieving what everyone wants to see.”
Central to that effort is the Brookfield Town Center, the newly renamed district long known as the town’s “Four Corners.” The junction of state Routes 202 and 25 — Federal Road and Whisconier Road — and marked by the four gas stations on the intersection’s corners, the area is now “undergoing a renaissance,” Paynter said.
With the first phase of the project — improving the streetscape with new sidewalks and granite curbing — expected to be completed by J. Iapaluccio Inc. by year’s end, the second phase is on schedule to begin next year. Paynter noted that in addition to extending the streetscape, it will connect the Still River Greenway Trail to the Town Center. The second-phase work is fully funded through an $875,000 federal grant and another $475,000 from the town of Brookfield, she said.
Some 16 years in the making, the 10-foot-wide paved greenway runs south from the Town Center to Route 133 and includes a 170-foot-long pedestrian bridge , the longest in the state. Connecting it to Town Center would help promote Brookfield’s growing walkability, Paynter said. As it stands, it already sees an average of over 500 people on Sundays and 200 to 300 each weekday.
Two of four new mixed-use buildings should be completed by early 2018, Paynter said. Those buildings make up the $25 million Brookfield Village project, which ultimately will have 72 rental apartments and about 25,000 square feet of commercial space. The buildings will be set far enough back from the street to allow for sidewalks and encourage pedestrian traffic.
Meanwhile, the recently opened, 165-unit Barnbeck Place Apartments at 398 Federal Road is fully occupied, while the 125-unit Oak Meadows complex at 9 Old Oak Drive has completed three phases and is in the midst of a fourth.
At the same time, lower Federal Road is seeing a significant amount of commercial development. The Pizza Hut at 7 Federal Road, which shuttered earlier this year, is being repurposed as a Dunkin’ Donuts and will feature the only drive-through coffee service on that stretch of the road.
As previously reported, New York City-based Hummus & Pita Co. is opening its first Connecticut location at 15 Federal Road in January.
In the Candlewood Plaza Shopping Center, at the intersection of Federal Road and Candlewood Lake Road, arts and crafts store Michaels will move from its current corner location into a larger space next door, formerly occupied by OfficeMax. CVS, which has a space in the middle of the plaza, will take over the Michaels spot and add a drive-through. A standalone space formerly occupied by Webster Bank will become a Burger King.
“We’ve also had interest from a number of investors in a vacant parcel of commercial real estate near the Costco” at 200 Federal Road, Paynter said.
There are also plans to open a Rich Farm ice cream shop on Station Road in Town Center, Paynter said — the first franchise that the Oxford-based business has granted.
Expansion is running at such a pace that Brookfield is looking into where to accommodate its soccer-playing youth. The library, which has outgrown its 9,000 square feet at 182 Whisconier Road, has been looking to relocate for a couple of years. Having received a $1 million construction grant that expires on March 1, 2018, it has proposed constructing
a building on the soccer field on the town’s Municipal Center campus. The police station could take over another soccer field.
As a result, an ad hoc committee has been formed to look at possible sites for new soccer areas.
Such problems are much preferable to entropy, Paynter said.
“We’re the only town that’s bordered by two lakes,” she said. “We have a high quality of life, great schools and we’re easily accessible to major highways. We’ve always known what we have. Now it’s time for everybody else to learn about us.”
To that end, Brookfield has commissioned consultants Milone & MacBroom to help rewrite its zoning regulations, which haven’t had a major overhaul in over 50 years.
“This is an effort to clarify the regulations, make the regulations user-friendly, help with economic development and move the town through the next 50 years of development,” Paynter said.