Brookfield apartments want walkers
Developers aim for walkable area at The Corners
TOWN OF BROOKFIELD - The eight or so lanes of cars and trucks roaring along W. Blue Mound Road, just east of four-lane N. Barker Road, don’t exactly paint a picture of an urban, walkable neighborhood.
But that’s exactly what two new apartment developments are trying to establish in an area that is more Driver’s Run than Walker’s Point.
The projects, two apartment buildings totaling 244 units at The Corners mixed-use development and the 138-unit Poplar Creek Club apartments, amount to a big change for the community — while creating a different housing choice for both younger residents and empty nesters in Waukesha County.
Other suburbs throughout the United States are taking similar steps to redevelop older properties into pedestrian-friendly destinations, even as more people in their 20s and 30s gravitate toward living and working in downtown areas.
“There is a large percentage of the growing millennial population that is living and working in the suburbs,” said Robert Monnat, chief operating officer of Mandel Group Inc., which operates apartments at The Corners.
“They’re not all living downtown,” Monnat said.
At Poplar Creek Club, developer Wimmer Bros. also expects younger professionals to account for a major part of its market, said Mark Wimmer, president.
And walkability is a big part of the marketing appeal for both projects.
At The Corners, Mandel manages the 152-unit Garrison Court, which opened Sept. 1, and Dempsey Place, with 92 units, which opened in July.
Both buildings feature apartments on four floors above stores, restaurants and other street-level retail space.
The Corners, a mixed-use development anchored by a Von Maur department store, began opening stores in April on 19 acres between W. Blue Mound Road and I-94, east of N. Barker Road.
The apartments have monthly rents ranging from $1,195 to $2,670. About half the units are studios or have one bedroom, with the larger units featuring two bedrooms.
In most suburban developments, smaller apartments make up around 25% of the units, Monnat said.
The 50-50 ratio at Garrison Court and Dempsey Place “is more of an urban mix,” partly aimed at younger renters, he said.
Residents can walk to stores, including a Sendik’s Food Market, as well as restaurants such as Cafe Hollander and BelAir Cantina, without leaving The Corners. That lineup might include a proposed movie theater by spring 2019.
The Corners also features a public square, with events such as concerts and University of Wisconsin football games on an outdoor big screen TV.
Both apartment buildings have fitness centers, club rooms and spaces within The Corners’ underground parking structure set aside for residents. Garrison Court also provides a theater room and an outdoor courtyard for residents of both buildings.
There’s even an outdoor dog walking area on the eastern edge of The Corners, near Poplar Creek.
That urban design was a major reason why Lesley Poberezny moved to Garrison Court from Georgetown Square apartments, in the city of Brookfield.
“I thought this was the downtown atmosphere in a suburban life,” said Poberezny, 35, who operates her own marketing consulting firm. “You really don’t have to move
your car. You can just walk to everything.”
That wasn’t the case at Georgetown Square, she said.
“That was more the subdivision type feel,” Poberezny said.
“Yes, it was an apartment. But you felt you were away from the main street,” she said. “You didn’t see or hear anything . ... It was too quiet.”
Georgetown Square, 16505 Wisconsin Ave., is operated by Wimmer Bros., the firm developing Poplar Creek Club. Those apartments will be just north of The Corners, at 20200 Poplar Creek Parkway.
Construction started this spring. Half of the four-story apartment building will be done by fall 2018 and the other half completed by spring 2019, Mark Wimmer said.
Poplar Creek Club will include a separate retail building at the northeast corner of W. Blue Mound Road and Poplar Creek Parkway. The apartments will include underground parking and a private courtyard.
The one- and two-bedroom units will have monthly rents of around $1,200 to $2,400.
Wimmer Bros., like Mandel Group, expects a mix of both younger professionals and older renters, including empty nesters from the Brookfield area.
The firm bought the 7.5-acre development site in part because of its closeness to I-94 and the “potential to create a neighborhood ambiance,” Wimmer said.
That includes walkability, he said, with the potential to link to nearby businesses on the north side of W. Blue Mound Road.
That amounts to a change in attitude for the firm, which years ago
fought sidewalk connections to its apartments but now generally welcomes them, Wimmer said.
“People want more experiential living,” he said.
The Town of Brookfield redevelopment projects are similar to ones being done in other U.S. suburbs.
The targets are often obsolete strip malls and big box stores, such as the former Menards home improvement store, Marcus Cinema and small strip center that were demolished to make way for The Corners.
In Wayzata, Minn., a Minneapolis suburb, a closed shopping mall was replaced by more than 300 senior housing units, a supermarket and other stores, a hotel and other projects, according to StarTribune.com. The developer, nonprofit Presbyterian Homes & Services, has done Wisconsin projects, including recent senior apartment buildings in Menomonee Falls and Germantown.
And the Milwaukee area is seeing other new suburban developments that mix housing and commercial space with a design that encourages walking.
They include Whitestone Station, in Menomonee Falls; the Mayfair Collection, in Wauwatosa; Drexel Town Square, in Oak Creek; and 84 South, in Greenfield.
The biggest challenge to such projects is overcoming the dependence that suburbs have on cars. That’s according to Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson, architecture professors who co-wrote the 2008 book “Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs.”
Reducing car dependence is a “challenge the suburbs were never built for,” Dunham-Jones said at a 2015 conference sponsored by the Urban Land Institute.
Wimmer acknowledged W. Blue Mound Road isn’t comparable to
the much narrower streets found in more walkable neighborhoods such as downtown Milwaukee.
“It’s not a Third Ward walkability,” he said. “But it is a new walkability that hasn’t existed in the (Brookfield) market before.”
Monnat, of Mandel Group, said The Corners offers around four to five blocks of walking “that can happen just on the property.” And there are sidewalks along W. Blue Mound and N. Barker roads, he said.
But Monnat acknowledged the neighborhood will never be confused with, say, Walker’s Point.
According to WalkScore.com, The Corners has a walking score of 29, which puts in the “car dependent” category.
The service uses a scale from 0 to 100 based on walking routes to destinations such as grocery stores, schools, parks, restaurants and retail.
By contrast, Artistry, a new Walker’s Point development that includes apartments and commercial space, has a walking score of 85, rated as “very walkable.”
Indeed, while there is a crosswalk over W. Blue Mound Road between The Corners and Poplar Creek Club, it might appear daunting to walk through so many lanes of traffic.
Poberezny, while living at Georgetown Square for five years, was about a half-mile from The Fresh Market grocery store, near Brookfield Square Mall. That was a walk she never took.
“Because I felt Blue Mound Road was so crazy busy, I didn’t want to risk my life crossing it,” Poberezny said.
“I know there’s sidewalks on Blue Mound Road,” she said. “But I never see people walking on them.”
Dempsey Place apartments is one of two new apartment buildings at The Corners mixed-use development in the Town of Brookfield.
A crosswalk over several lanes of traffic on W. Blue Mound Road connects The Corners with the future Poplar Creek Club apartments. See more photos and a video at