Getting ready for the Brookfield Conference Center
Officials, developers hold groundbreaking ceremony

By Cara Spoto

Oct. 11, 2018

 Nancy Justman, president/CEO of Visit Brookfield, smiles Wednesday at the groundbreaking ceremony for the long-awaited Brookfield Conference Center near Brookfield Square Mall. The development, which will include a 168room Hilton Garden Inn, is slated to open in 2020.
Cara Spoto/Freeman Staff

BROOKFIELD — What started as a sprinkle turned into a full downpour on Wednesday morning as leaders from across Waukesha County packed into a small tent just south of Brookfield Square Mall.

The weather, however, did nothing to dampen the spirits of officials and developers who had gathered to mark the groundbreaking of the long-awaited Brookfield Conference Center.

Slated to open in 2020, the 54,000-square-foot venue will include a 168-room Hilton Garden Inn, 24,000 square feet of ballroom space, a 10,000-square-foot atrium, and a 9,000-squarefoot outdoor plaza and garden.

“Today we will collaborate, we will connect, and most importantly, we will celebrate. I just couldn’t be more pleased to be here. It’s such an exciting time in Brookfield with all the development and construction happening, and I am very proud to be a part of it,” said Nancy Justman, president/CEO of Visit Brookfield, kicking off the event.

Once the project is done, Brookfield will have the second largest cluster of hotels in southeastern Wisconsin. Justman commended the area’s existing hoteliers for embracing the project, which she said came out of a increased need for larger-scale meeting space.

 Michael Lebovitz, president of CBL, the company that owns Brookfield Square Mall, speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Brookfield Conference Center on Wednesday morning.
Cara Spoto/Freeman Staff

 Local leaders and developers, including Waukesha County Board Chairman Paul Decker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto (center) take part in a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday morning for the Brookfield Conference Center.
Cara Spoto/Freeman Staff

Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto also took time to praise the city’s existing hotel owners, who supported raising the room tax to help finance the conference center building. He also noted the tax incremental financing district for the project, which was created to finance the land acquisition.

In a statement echoed by others, Ponto expressed how excited he was to have the conference center project coming at the very same time Brookfield Square Mall is going through its own renewal. As the groundbreaking was taking place on Wednesday morning, construction machinery could be heard working on the redevelopment of the south end of the mall, where Sears once sat.

Once completed, the new section of entertainment and retail hub will include a Marcus Cinemas Bistro-Plex, a hybrid restaurant and entertainment center dubbed WhirlyBall, and several restaurants.

“The mall has been an economic driver and catalyst for Brookfield since it opened more than 50 years ago,” Ponto said. “It is our deep hope and expectation that the conference center and the mall will prove to be synergistic, with each benefiting the other, and together benefiting the whole region.”

Mall owner CBL President Michael Lebovitz, who came up from Nashville, Tennessee for the groundbreaking ceremony, said he has similar hopes.

“The ability to marry up the redevelopment of an anchor store with a new hotel and conference center is a perfect mix in today’s changing retail landscape,” Lebovitz said. “This is what it’s all about.”