Brookfield’s long-gestating cosmetic changes are getting ready to be officially unveiled, its Brookfield Village development has hit the halfway mark of completion, and plenty of new businesses are moving in.
“Our slogan is, ‘Brookfield is open for business’ — and this really proves it,” said Betsy Paynter, the town’s economic and community development manager.
Indeed, a group of business owners has formed an association called Brookfield Town Center 4 Business, headed by Body Vision Personal Training owner Kathy Creighton, to support each other and the area at large.
As for the recently-minted Brookfield Town Center itself — still popularly known as the town’s “Four Corners” at the junction of state Routes 202 and 25, or Federal and Whisconier Roads — it will take pride of place via a June 1 ribbon-cutting to promote the completion of its new sidewalks and granite curbing. Bike racks and benches are still to come, Paynter noted.
A second ribbon-cutting on the same day will mark the completion of two of the four buildings making up Brookfield Village, a $25 million mixed-use development that will total 72 rental apartments and 25,000 square feet of commercial space. Paynter said that 40 of the apartments have already been leased.
One of those lessees is Mark DePaolis, who will open a Rich Farm Ice Cream shop in the Village’s fourth building. It’s expected to begin operations in April.
The town has already put up banners hyping the progress it has made. “We’re also having a block party on June 3 to celebrate with the community,” Paynter noted.
There’s also plenty of progress being made in luring business to town. Traveling Chic Boutique, which launched in Bethel two years ago as a “mobile boutique” — essentially a van filled with couture — will open its first brick-and-mortar store in a 1,500-square-foot space at 800 Federal Road in June.
New York City-based Hummus & Pita Co. is moving in at 15 Federal Road, while work is continuing to transform what had until 2016 been a Pizza Hut at 7 Federal Road into a Dunkin’ Donuts, which will share the space with Burgerim, an international fast-casual burger chain.
Five Guys, which closed its store at 121 Federal Road when its lease expired late last year, will reopen essentially across the street at 84 Federal in a larger space measuring some 3,000 square feet. The old Five Guys remains vacant, an increasingly rare sight in Brookfield, Paynter said.
In case that’s still not enough ground beef, a Burger King is being constructed in a standalone space previously occupied by Webster Bank in the Candlewood Plaza Shopping Center at the intersection of Federal and Candlewood Lake Roads.
That shopping center will also see arts and craft store Michaels relocate from its corner location into a larger space to make room for a CVS with a drive-thru.
Also coming to the area are J Ramen & Sushi and The First Bite Catering, a New Milford-based firm that specializes in pairing wine with gourmet foods.
Still being addressed is what Paynter said the town views as the need for a “neighborhood grocery” in the Town Center area. Brookfield’s only grocery store is the 30,000-square-foot ShopRite at 143 Federal Road.
“We think there’s a need for residents further along Federal Road for something that’s in the 10-15,000 square feet range,” she said. “We’ve been talking with different developers and property owners about it, but it’s still in the early stages.”
On the residential side, Brookfield was granted a four-year moratorium last year on enforcing 8-30g, the controversial state statute that allows developers to bypass zoning laws if they build affordable housing. The moratorium was “a way for the town to regain control,” Paynter said. “When you’re throwing out local zoning laws, you run the risk of destroying a neighborhood’s character.”
The town remains committed to providing affordable housing, she added, “but we want to do it in a way that’s architecturally consistent with what’s already there.”
Paynter noted that Brookfield Mews, a 112-unit affordable housing complex at 468 Federal Road, has gone forward after approval was granted prior to the moratorium.
The town is still planning to revisit its zoning regulations, which Paynter said “haven’t been changed in 50 years or more.”
Such activity could eventually lead to a resolution of the long-standing saga of the Brookfield Library, which has been trying to move out of its 9,600-square-foot home at 182 Whisconier Road in favor of larger, more modern quarters for about 15 years. Voters rejected a plan for a 35,000-square-foot, $14.7 million library earlier this year; the Library Board of Trustees has vowed to return with a new plan.
Part of the problem, Paynter said, was that several of Brookfield’s aging school buildings are in need of repair and/or modernization, making it difficult for many residents to accept allocating funds for a new library. “It’s a hard choice,” she said.