City has plan to revitalize Bishops Woods

By Brandon Anderegg - Freeman Staff

Oct. 6, 2017

Shawarma House, 17385 W. Bluemound Road in Brookfield, opened Thursday. It offers unique Middle Eastern cuisine.
John Ehlke/Daily News

BROOKFIELD - The city's Department of Economic Development and Community Development department have proposed the Bishops Woods Neighborhood Plan to revitalize the office park following decreased occupancy. The office park is just off Bluemound Road and Sunny Slope Road near Interstate 94.

The BWNP will not be finalized until early next year, according to Neighborhood Planner Richard VanDerWal. He said several steps must first be taken, and a third neighborhood meeting will be held in late October or early November.

VanDerWal said the city hopes to attract regional and national firms by marketing the park's most unique characteristics. It is surrounded by a nature preserve and close to the Bluemound Road Corridor and the adjacent single-family home neighborhoods as well as I-94.

"We think that it has some unique opportunities based on its setting," said Brookfield Economic Development Coordinator Todd Willis. "Most office parks don't have that wood surrounded area,"

Nationally, suburban firms have been moving downtown to attract and retain millennials. Bader Rutter, a marketing firm, is leaving the Bishops Woods area for a new 60,000 square-foot headquarters in downtown Milwaukee.

As a result, Bishops Woods has a gross vacancy rate of 22.85 percent, according to the Bishops Woods Market Analysis. With 209 office buildings throughout the city, the total vacancy of Brookfield's submarket is much lower at 16 percent. The higher rate of vacancy indicates the market favors other office parks in Brookfield and throughout the Milwaukee metropolitan region, according to the analysis.

To create the BWNP, city officials analyzed municipalities throughout the Midwest with comparable populations, employment, incomes, demographics, economics and households, according to the market analysis.

Bishops Woods contains approximately 700,000 square feet of Class A office space, 58.17 percent of the total office space. Only 33.86 of Brookfield's submarket is considered Class A office space, giving Bishops Woods the opportunity to attract quality tenants. Class A office buildings are categorized as having the highest quality workspaces, accessible locations and asking rents above the area average.

The Brookfield submarket has 61.22 percent of Class B office space, contrasted with only 32.95 percent of Bishops Woods' office park. Class B office buildings appeal to a wider range of users as spaces are more affordable and buildings are in fair to good condition. The Brookfield submarket is largely dominated by Class B buildings, making the office park even more capable of drawing high employment generating corporations, according to Willis.

Bishops Woods contains 8.88 percent Class C office space, buildings needing renovation and featuring rents below the area average. The revitalization plan would look at updating these buildings to Class A offices to improve the park's overall quality, according to the market analysis.

Outdoor amenities

VanDerWal said the plan seeks more flexible zoning so the park could adapt to changing contemporary lifestyles. The departments in conjunction with the Property Association, a group of park business owners, wish to implement a walking path around the park's perimeter.

"A lot of suburban office parks are adding these outdoor recreation amenities," said VanDerWal. "It's basically leveraging amenities so that the office park is more marketable."

VanDerWal also believes that a small commute, even walking to work, is a perk that employees seek these days. He said zoning flexibility might allow for apartments or more preferably town homes in the future. More flexible zoning could provide more interconnectivity, which would help with traffic buildup, according to Willis.

The departments do not have actual dollar amounts but estimates based on research. However, VanDerWal said the project's cost would be shared between the city and the Property Association.

VanDerWal said no additional parcels would be created, the project would not disturb the park's natural ecosystem and several measures would protect the natural preserve.

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