Brookfield’s long-planned streetscape renovations to its Four Corners district are finally moving forward after residents approved the plan by a 2-to-1 majority.
Roughly 14 percent of the electorate turned out to consider the proposal, which allows the town to borrow $1.7 million to complete the funding for the first phase of the Four Corners project, according to Greg Dembowski, the town’s project manager. “The weather was terrible that day,” he said, “but for a one-off referendum it was a good showing.”
The referendum passed by an unofficial tally of 929-489, according to the town clerk’s office.
Grants are expected to make up the remainder of the project’s estimated $3.5 million cost.
Four Corners, a community landmark named for being the historic junction of State Routes 202 (Federal Road) and 25 (Whisconier Road) and for the quartet of gas stations on each corner of the intersection, has been under discussion for improvements “probably for 30 years,” Dembowski said.
Though Brookfield has a number of development projects in the works, Dembowski said Four Corners tops the list. “We want to turn this into a walkable area that’s friendly to business and residents alike,” he said. “That includes appealing to people who are maybe just starting out, who want to move here to raise a family and become part of a community.”
Plans are for the Four Corners development to include removing eight utility poles and several existing buildings to construct four mixed-use buildings under the “Brookfield Village” moniker. That $25 million development will have first floors reserved for commercial use while the top two floors will consist of one- and two-bedroom apartments and total 72 units. Each floor would be about 25,000 square feet. The new buildings – half of which are expected to be completed by this fall, with the rest completed by fall 2018 – will be set far enough back from the street to allow for sidewalks.
Brookfield Village was designed by architect Paul R. Bailey and is being built by Montagno Construction of Waterbury. Pre-leasing is already available and being overseen by George F. Walker, director of corporate development at Advantage Commercial Realty and onetime Brookfield selectman.
All Four Corners designs will be “in the New England style,” according to Brookfield’s Economic and Community Development Manager Betsy Paynter, with sidewalks and bike lanes – the first-ever for the area – meant to make the revitalized district more pedestrian-friendly and get across a “feeling of quaintness,” she said.
The revamped downtown district is expected to include two restaurants, as well as, retail, medical and professional offices.
Even the Mobil gas station at 818 Federal Road is expected to get into the act via “New England-style” renovations turning it into a two-story building with a focus on its food offerings, Paynter said.
Cranking up Brookfield’s bucolic potential is very much at the forefront of the plan. “I believe we’re the only town in the area whose borders are between two lakes, but we need to take better advantage of that,” said Dembowski, referring to Candlewood Lake to the west and Lake Lillinonah to the east. He added that as part of the development, access to the picturesque Still River nearby will be improved.
Dembowski noted that the Brookfield Planning Board has been working since 2002 to create a town center in Four Corners, and that it’s been “a relief” to finally have some momentum.
Remaining an open question is what to call the new district – something Brookfield has been discussing for nearly as long as it’s been talking about renovations, Dembowski said.
“The name ‘Four Corners’ isn’t as quaint as we’d like it to be,” he said. “Historically it was known as the Ironworks District, but we’re still looking for the right name.”