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Brookfield citizens seek to save a barn from redevelopment

Some residents in nearby neighborhoods are disappointed with early plans by Irgens to remove or relocate the yellow barn at Ruby Farm. Irgens has said it will preserve the farmhouse.

Some residents in nearby neighborhoods are disappointed with early plans by Irgens to remove or relocate the yellow barn at Ruby Farm. Irgens has said it will preserve the farmhouse. Photo By Geoff Bruce

July 1, 2014

Irgens Development will brings its first set of plans for the overhaul of Ruby Farm before the City of Brookfield's Plan Commission next week, Monday, July 7.

One group that plans to have a sizable contingent in attendance is the Concerned Calhoun Community.

Concerned Calhoun and Irgens both agree that negotiations and communications have been strong to date as plans begin to form; but many residents do have at least one problem with the preliminary plans so far.

As of now, Irgens plans to retain the Ruby Farm farmhouse as part of its $153 million overhaul of the property into a retail, office, and multi-use setting called The Corridor. However, it does not plan to keep the Ruby Farm barn.

Moving the barn?

"The current plan for The Corridor does include keeping the barn in place," Mary Claire Lanser of Lanser Public Affairs, representing Irgens, said. "There may be interest in relocating the barn to another site. We are currently working with City Officials on this matter."

Concerned Calhoun Community officials argue that the barn is an important part of Brookfield's history and should be molded into Irgens' plans so as to retain a sense of identity.

"As soon as we heard that Irgens had purchased the property in October of 2013, we began promoting keeping the barn and the farmhouse," Concerned Calhoun Community President Mary Waring said. "What I see from my front porch is this beautiful yellow barn. It's such a unique feature and such a hallmark of Brookfield."

Waring and Concerned Calhoun Community Secretary Laurel Mellone contacted the Wisconsin Historical Society with the hope of receiving assistance in preserving the barn; however, because Ruby Farm was no longer a complete farmstead, their request was denied.

The Concerned Calhoun Community is a group of around 600 families who live in neighborhoods south of W. Bluemound Road.

"Almost all of the people that I've talked to want to kepe the barn. It's such a unique feature to our neighborhood. People use the barn and the farm setting as a photo backdrop. One of our alderman put it on his Christmas card," Waring said.

A working relationship

While tension is in the air regarding the Ruby Farm barn, Waring and Mellone note that Irgens has been great to work with so far in the planning of The Corridor.

"They've been excellent in letting us know what's going on. They are top-notch in keeping us involved and informed," Waring said. "Everything that they've said and done indicates that they will continue to do that."

Mellone notes that she and Waring are, in general, very happy with the plans explained to them thus far by Irgens, but remain hopeful that the development company might be convinced to change their minds on the barn.

"We have lost so many historic landmarks in town. I don't know if we'll have any left," Mellone said. "The community is losing all of its charm and history."

The Concerned Calhoun Community repesentatives also both agreed that they would rather see the Ruby Farms barn remain intact than the farmhouse.

"I would take that compromise. If we had to, I would opt for the barn over the house," Mellone said. "The barn is more of a hallmark of Brookfield. When you see pictures of (The Corridor) all finished, if you had the barn there, you could say 'Hey, that's Brookfield, Wisconsin.'"

Farmhouse vs. barn

Lanser says that it is unlikely that Irgens would opt to keep the farm's barn over its farmhouse.

"The farmhouse is a better fit for future development for this site. The re-use of the barn would be more difficult at this site from a size perspective," Lanser said. "Uses that are being considered for the farmhouse may benefit a broader cross-section of the community than the barn would at this site."

The City of Brookfield's Plan Commission will meet Monday, July 7 at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers of City Hall, 2000 N. Calhoun Road.

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