Plans for Ruby Farms site tweaked
Brookfield officials, residents praise developer for hearing concerns

By Dave Fidlin - Special to The Freeman

Oct. 22, 2014

BROOKFIELD - A revised plan for a high profile, mixed-use development in the heart of Brookfield was met with praise by city leaders and residents Tuesday.

Representatives with Milwaukee-based commercial real estate development firm Irgens Development Partners gave updated plans on their proposed reuse of the Ruby Farms site at Bluemound and Calhoun roads during a Common Council meeting.

When Irgens’ name first surfaced as a developer of the long dormant property a year ago, questions arose about the future of the Ruby buildings, which date back to the mid-1800s and include a farmhouse and barn.

Resident groups, including Concerned Calhoun Community, advocated a number of steps be taken, including preservation of the historic buildings and their integration into the development, which has tentatively been dubbed “The Corridor.”

Through a series of phases, Irgens’ plans for the property include a mixture of office, medical, wellness, retail and hospitality-related buildings on the nearly 66-acre site. Upwards of 880,000 square feet of building space are planned when all construction is complete.

Dan Ertl, director of community development, said the site has been zoned with a planned development district designation that allows for more flexibility in plotting logistics for the site.


Reaching out to residents

David Arnold, executive vice president of Irgens, said the company has strived to work cooperatively with residents living near the site. He asserted several suggestions - including ultimate preservation of the Ruby buildings - were taken into account as plans were revised.

“We’ve been working hard over the past few months as we’ve been responsive to residents,” Arnold said. “We want to be respectful of our neighbors.”

Some of the company’s overtures, Arnold said, included stops at 341 single-family homes in the immediate vicinity of the site. Of the door knocks, 191 residents provided feedback on the proposals.

Frequent concerns included the height of the buildings, the overall density of the project, traffic and noise - and, of course, the future of the Ruby buildings.

In response, the city’s proposed, specially tailored PDD zoning for the site includes trimming the maximum building height ordinance from an original 150 feet to 85 feet.

Other concerns have included the amount of office and retail space, particularly as vacancies continue to dot developments along the Bluemound Road corridor.

Speaking of the surrounding area, Arnold said, “It competes well with the rest of the region.” He suggested Brookfield has a glut of so-called Class A office space - high-quality properties that attract top-tiered corporate tenants.

More than a dozen residents weighed in on Irgens’ plans during a public hearing, and many praised the company for hearing their concerns throughout the past year.

“Irgens has listened to the neighbors and made changes,” said Mary Waring, president of Concerned Calhoun Community. “I feel this is an excellent step in the right direction.”

The council did not take any action on Irgens’ plans for the site. The Plan Commission will hash over details Nov. 10. The council could take action, based on recommendations from commissioners, Nov. 18.