Plans for Brookfield’s Ruby Farms site on hold
Housing could be absent from new Corridor development project

By Dave Fidlin - Special to The Freeman

July 8, 2014

Corn grows in a field in the Ruby Farms area south of Bluemound Road. 
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

BROOKFIELD - Future plans for the former Ruby Farms property remain in limbo after city officials on Monday held off on a decision.

David J. Merrick, vice president and market manager with Milwaukee-based commercial real estate firm Irgens, came before the Plan Commission with details of a mixed-use development known as The Corridor.

“We’re proposing what we believe is a very achievable development,” Merrick said of the 66-acre site at Bluemound and Calhoun roads. In addition to Ruby Farms, the proposed development also includes long-dormant property once used for WTMJ-AM’s radio towers.

Merrick laid out his conceptual plans for the three-phased Corridor development. He envisioned devoting about 15 acres toward retail, 35 acres toward office use and the balance toward a hybrid of other possible uses, including a wellness center, hotel and convention center.

One detail absent from the plan was a residential component.

“We thought it would be better for all the uses to feed off one another,” Merrick said when asked by multiple commissioners why housing was not included.

Bluemound Road businesses loom in the distance, past a Ruby Farms field growing corn Monday.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

The city has been discussing redevelopment of the Ruby Farms-WTMJ site in earnest since 2001, when a master plan for the property was drawn up. Dan Ertl, director of community development, said a zoning change for the site would be necessary if housing is not part of the equation.

Most of the commissioners were not opposed to developing the site without housing. But several members had reservations about giving the green light to proceed because they did not feel plans were fully fleshed out.

“This is one of the last bastions of development in this city,” said Alderman Gary Mahkorn, who serves as a commissioner. “You should expect higher scrutiny.”

Fellow alderman and commissioner Mark Nelson agreed with Mahkorn’s sentiments. He said, “This is an important piece of property. There’s that saying of something being better than nothing, but that kind of thinking just doesn’t fly in the city of Brookfield.”

Several dozen residents living near the site attended Monday’s meeting. Jerry Mellone, one of the aldermen representing the Ruby Farms area, spoke spoke extensively of the Ruby home and barn buildings, which are expected to be preserved within the Irgens proposal.

“It’s a landmark that sets Brookfield apart from other cities,” Mellone said of the Ruby buildings, which have origins going back to 1848.

Because of several looming issues - including questions of how the property would be zoned - commissioners delayed action. Approval by the appointed body is one of several steps necessary before construction equipment could begin pushing dirt around on the property.

In other business

In other business Monday, commissioners gave preliminary approval to the following items that will advance to the Common Council for an ultimate decision:

* Plans for a new 77,500-square-foot automobile dealership building at 20445 W. Capitol Drive. JRS Holdings, parent company of Safro Toyota, is planning to raze existing buildings and construct a new one.

* A revised construction plans for a 12,950-square-foot mosque at 16670 Pheasant Drive. The Islamic Foundation of Greater Milwaukee was to have completed the first phase of the project by June 30, but Ahmed Quereshi, president of the organization, said delays took place because of the harsh winter weather. Revised plans call for the project to wrap by Nov. 30.

* An amendment to the city’s zoning code for the commercial corridor within the village section of the city. A proposal is on the table to add nursery schools, day nurseries and child care centers into the list of permissible uses.