Brookfield commission backs The Corridor project at Ruby Farms site
Residents laud plans, others concerned about using TIF dollars

By Dave Fidlin - Special to The Freeman

March 10, 2015

 A rendering of the retail portion of the proposed The Corridor project. 
Submitted rendering

BROOKFIELD - The proposed construction of a large-scale, mixed-use development within Brookfield’s historic Ruby Farms site moved one step closer to reality Monday.

After a public hearing, the Plan Commission voted unanimously in favor of a series of documents pertaining to The Corridor, a development eyed for 65 acres of long-dormant land north of Interstate 94, west of Calhoun Road and south of Bluemound Road.

With commissioners signaling the green light, The Corridor, spearheaded by Milwaukee-based developer Mark Irgens, goes before the Common Council later this month for a final, definitive vote.

As proposed, The Corridor will include an amalgamation of retail, office space, medical buildings and restaurants. A convention center could also be included in the development during a second, less fleshed-out phase of the project.

One key component of bringing The Corridor to fruition is for the city to allocate $7.55 million in public funding with a new tax incremental financing district. The TIF proposal was a cause for concern by some during Monday’s hearing.

Resident Laurel Malone, whose civic involvement has included a role in the grassroots group Concerned Calhoun Community, said she was pleased to see the Ruby farmstead buildings included in the development.

“I did not, however, expect that it would be done at the expense of taxpayers by way of a TIF,” Malone said. “It is my understanding that a public benefit would be part of the developer’s investment. Is a TIF now a requirement in order to preserve the farm?”

But most of more than half a dozen speakers lauded Irgens and the city for a perceived act of forward-thinking and bringing life to an underutilized section of the city.

“As a longtime Brookfield resident, I have heard many plans and seen many ideas come and go for the Ruby Farm land,” speaker Stefan Behling said. “I don’t want to see another opportunity to pass us by. Now is the time to get this project done. I fully support our city government’s recommended tax incremental financing plan to do just that.”

Commissioners, as a whole, were enthusiastic about the plans for The Corridor. Officials readily pointed out several nearby municipalities - including Menomonee Falls, Milwaukee and Wauwatosa - have made similar decisions to spur economic developments.

“I think the time is right,” said Alderman and Plan Commissioner Mark Nelson. “We need to get Brookfield in the game. This is a wonderful, premiere piece of property.”

Fellow alderman and commissioner Rick Owen agreed. “We have a beautiful plan here,” he said. “There’s been a lot of thought behind what this can be.”

The commission’s motion came on the heels of an affirmative vote by the Community Development Authority in January.

As a precursor to voting, the city hired a consultant, S.B. Friedman & Company, to review Irgens’ plans and the value in allocating public TIF dollars toward the project.

Friedman officials anticipated the total TIF-related costs for The Corridor development clock in at $12.1 million after taking into account such factors as capitalized interest, costs of borrowing and debt insurance costs.

Friedman also asserted The Corridor could bring an additional $49 million onto the city’s tax base.