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Brookfield considers changes to development plan in advance of Trader Joe's

Dec. 14, 2011

Trader Joe's grocery store may be making its long-awaited debut in Brookfield.

First, however, city officials will consider a number of changes to development plans for the Underwood Crossing retail center at the former Quebecor World Color site on Bluemound Road.

Plan Commission members on Monday discussed allowing about 6,000 square feet of additional retail space to accommodate a yet-to-be named junior anchor, as well as modifications to signage and lighting to accommodate requests of Trader Joe's and residential neighbors.

In July, the Common Council approved development plans for a 140,000-square-foot Target store and an 18,000-square-foot junior anchor directly to the east. An additional 16,200 square feet of commercial space will front Bluemound, with PNC Bank and Trader Joe's occupying two of three lots there.

Trader Joe's is a nationwide chain of specialty grocery stores. In Wisconsin, Trader Joe's has stores in Glendale and Madison.

More retail space

Tony Barranco, a retail development director with Ryan Cos., said a yet-to-be named "soft-goods retailer" could become the junior anchor tenant; however, it requires about 6,000 square feet of additional retail space.

"They are not a huge traffic-generating store. They're not like a dollar store, or other high-volume store, where they need a lot of repeat business," Barranco said.

Community Development Director Dan Ertl said the increase in square footage would add about 3.2 percent of additional retail space to Underwood Crossing.

Barranco said the change wouldn't impact a 75-foot landscaped buffer between Underwood Crossing and the Columbia Gardens neighborhood. However, several parking spaces would be lost.

Alderman Rick Owen, a member of the Plan Commission, said the additional square footage wouldn't have a major impact on the development.

"A particular junior anchor would be expanded in a way almost no one will perceive," he said. "I'm comfortable with the changes."

Plan Commission citizen member Kevin Wahlgren noted that the expansion would be restricted to paved space, rather than adjacent green space.

Plans originally called for a monument sign along Bluemound to carry the banner of Underwood Crossing, Target and the junior anchor.

Barranco said a sticking point in negotiations with Trader Joe's representatives is that a sign for the grocery chain be included in the monument sign.

"Trader Joe's loves signs," Barranco conceded.

Ertl said city code regulating signage allows only two businesses on a monument sign. Also, a sign carrying the name of a retail center (e.g., Underwood Crossing) must account for at least 50 percent of a monument sign space.

The proposed change wouldn't impact the height of the sign, but it would increase its surface area by about 60 square feet.

Ertl said the Common Council can approve a variance if a community benefit or goal is being achieved.

Commissioners expressed support for the variance, but also noted that the city's current signage codes may need to be re-evaluated for other locations.

"I very much support the amendment to zoning code to allow more businesses on monument signs," Owen said.

Lush landscaping

A representative of the adjacent Columbia Gardens subdivision has requested a more intensive landscaping buffer, rather than leaving the existing buckthorn and evergreens intact.

Ryan Cos. is under no obligation to do so under the current development agreement, Ertl said.

Barranco said more intensive landscaping isn't included in the project's budget; however, cost savings from changes to parking lot lighting could be allocated.

Currently, the maximum height of light poles allowed in the city is 20 feet. Ryan Cos. has requested a variance allowing 25-foot light poles. That would require fewer poles and save about $20,000.

Alderman Mark Nelson, a member of the Plan Commission, questioned why the city placed a 20-foot limit on light poles.

Larry Goudy, city zoning and building administrator, said the limitations were put into place for aesthetic reasons.

Alderman Gary Mahkorn, who serves on the Plan Commission, said there have been advancements in lighting technology that make taller light poles less obtrusive.

"I would like to see a little of that cost savings translate into more landscaping," he added.

The Plan Commission backed a public hearing required to amend development plans.

Next Step

WHAT: Common Council will consider authorizing a public hearing on proposed changes to development plans

WHEN: 7:45 p.m. Dec. 20

WHERE: City Hall, 2000 N. Calhoun Road

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