BROOKFIELD STATION SUBAREA
This section reviews the existing conditions of the Brookfield Station Subarea and the proposed redevelopment recommendations and plans.
The Brookfield Station is the primary Metra station for Brookfield along the Burlington-Northern Santa-Fe (BNSF) railroad line. The station and platforms are in the center of the study area, which extends as far north as Grant Avenue, south to Southview Avenue, with east-west boundaries of Arden and Sunnyside Avenues.
The area around the station is home to a variety of land-uses typical to a transit-oriented development, including cafes and restaurants and commuter convenient uses such as a dry cleaner and the Post Office. Grand Boulevard, between Brookfield and Grant Avenues is the primary commercial and retail block within the corridor, while the adjacent Prairie Avenue houses businesses that are more service oriented, such as a real estate office, beauty salon, and dry cleaner. The commercial uses on Prairie Avenue end at the first alley, north of the six-cornered intersection. Future expansion of commercial uses on this street is limited by the existence of single-family homes on the west and multi-family developments on the east side of Prairie Avenue north of the alley. Several vacant commercial buildings exist along Grand Boulevard, most predominantly at the corner of Grand Boulevard, Fairview, and Brookfield Avenues.
A limited amount of commercial development exists on Brookfield and Fairview Avenues north of the railroad tracks. A new condominium building without first floor commercial space was constructed at the corner of Forest and Brookfield Avenues. New commercial development east of Forest Avenue is unlikely as a result of the gap in commercial uses created by this new building and the location of the historic train station on the next block. Burlington Boulevard, south of the train tracks, also has a limited number of commercial uses, including restaurants, general services, and office uses. Several attached single-family and multi-family residences also exist south of the tracks. This housing is conveniently located close to the station and the downtown, however, only one of these buildings is new and none of the buildings are very dense, despite their close proximity to transit.
The Brookfield Station Subarea contains several parks. The largest open space within the Subarea is the Cook County Forest Preserve’s Brookfield Woods Preserve. This preserve continues along Salt Creek throughout the Village; within the Subarea it is found on either side of Brookfield Avenue in the southeast quarter. Kiwanis Park, which includes active recreational facilities, and Creekside Park are also located within the Subarea. An existing land-use map can be found at the end of this section.
The current zoning in the downtown Subarea is C-3 Centralized Commercial District, which is intended to foster the development of a pedestrian-oriented commercial district. The C-3 district, however, allows gas stations by right and requires a special use for outdoor cafes. Upper residential units are permitted by right in this district, but first floor residential development requires planned development approval. Parking regulations require two parking spaces per residential unit, regardless of the unit size. Many of these existing regulations actually serve to hinder pedestrian-oriented development, despite the district’s stated intent.
As visitors pass through Brookfield for the first time, they will form an opinion of the community. Often visitors judge the desirability of the community through this visual first impression. One way to create a positive first impression is through the character of the buildings. Many first time visitors to Brookfield will see the Village from the train; consequently the buildings along the tracks are especially important in creating a good first impression.
The Subarea’s commercial buildings, both mixed-use and single-use, are one to two stories, with one exception south of the railroad tracks. One set-back strip center exists within the Subarea, but the majority of the commercial buildings were constructed with little to no setback. Few of the downtown commercial buildings are new, although numerous buildings have undergone various façade renovations.
In many cases, these façade renovations have served to hide or remove, rather than improve and enhance, the traditional façade elements found in older pedestrian-oriented commercial districts, such as large display windows, pedestrian-oriented signage, horizontal banding, and parapets. The original façade materials, brick and stone, were also often replaced with building material such as siding and shingles or residential grade materials and hardware, including doors. The traditional character of the downtown has been diminished as a result of these renovations.
The predominant housing type in the Village is single-family detached homes, however several upper floor apartments, multi-family buildings, and new attached single-family residences exist within the Subarea. Several examples of the latter two categories exist east of Prairie Avenue. Stone and brick are the primary façade materials used on these new buildings, which are appropriate materials for the community. While the majority of these buildings are built close to the front property line, few of the newer buildings have a dominant street presence found in traditional buildings, both residential and commercial. Two of the buildings have few to no windows along the sidewalk, the front entry is not always along the street, and the buildings’ off-street parking is not always screened from view. Burlington Boulevard east of Brookfield Avenue also has several multi-family and attached single-family buildings with similar characteristics.
The heart of the Brookfield Station Subarea is the six-corner intersection of Brookfield Avenue (north-south), Grand Boulevard (runs from the intersection to the northwest), Brookfield Avenue (northeastsouthwest), and Fairview Avenue (runs from the intersection west). As illustrated in the picture below, the intersection of these streets is very large and daunting for all travel modes traversing it, but especially for pedestrians. Adding to this difficultly are the poor sight lines as a result of the train tracks being above the grade of the intersection.
While this intersection received a favorable level of service (LOS) rating (a qualitative rating measuring traffic flow) when last studied in 1999, it is designed more for vehicles than for a commuter heading to his or her residence north of the downtown or a potential patron of a Grand Avenue business. The wide pavement lanes of this intersection and the adjacent streets increase the areas of pedestrian-vehicular conflict and make crossing an intersection leg difficult for those with a disability, the elderly, or young children.
A technique called PedZoneSM was used to analyze the existing pedestrian friendliness of the Brookfield Station Subarea; the resulting illustration can be found at the end of this section. All pedestrian pathways — sidewalks and crosswalks — are classified as one of three zones, depending on their pedestrian friendliness or the level of pedestrian comfort experienced in a given location. Zones designated in green are comfortable pathways that are lined by storefronts built to the lot line or within a few feet of the lot line and are buffered from fast moving vehicles in the travel lanes with on-street parking or landscaping. The yellow or unrewarding pathways are adjacent to parking lots or blank, windowless walls. These areas provide safe passage for a pedestrian, but not an interesting or rewarding journey. In the final designation, the red or automobile-pedestrian conflicted pathways, pedestrians are sharing the same pathways as faster moving automobiles, such as crosswalks and driveways.
The Brookfield Station Subarea has pedestrian pathways in all three categories. The streets with single-family detached residences are predominantly comfortable routes, as the majority of the streets are alley-loaded and have both on-street parking and landscaping to serve as a buffer between pedestrians and vehicles. Grand Boulevard and Prairie Avenue are also rated comfortable; the buildings are built to the street and most have large display windows. On-street parking again serves as a buffer. The few unrewarding and conflicted pathways on these streets result from the existence of vacant buildings or lots and curb cuts to alleys, driveways, and parking lots. Brookfield Avenue has the largest quantity of safe, but unrewarding pedestrian pathways as a result of set-back buildings, buildings with little transparency, and no on-street parking to act as a buffer.
Grand Boulevard, as previously stated, is the primary commercial street in the downtown; it serves as a link to the Eight Corners Subarea to be discussed in a later section. Development along Grand Boulevard has been built up to the street, creating a streetwall or framing effect, however, many of the buildings are single-story commercial buildings and many have had their traditional façade elements hidden or removed. Grand Boulevard has a right-of-way of approximately 80 feet, which is wide for a traditional downtown street. This width combined with the many single-story buildings along Grand Boulevard makes it appear out of proportion and wider than it really is.
Prairie Avenue traverses the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe tracks adjacent to the Brookfield Station; it is the only grade crossing in the Subarea for either pedestrians or vehicles. While not as wide as Grand Boulevard, the relatively short height of the buildings compared to the space between buildings also makes the street appear wider than it really is. Prairie Avenue has on-street parallel parking buffering pedestrians, however, the sidewalk is interrupted by curb cuts for alley access, as well as for access to a residential parking lot.
The primary east-west street south of the tracks is Burlington Boulevard. Similar to Brookfield Avenue on the north side of the BNSF line, the street has head-in Metra parking along the tracks and a mix of uses on the other side, including both residential and commercial uses. Burlington Boulevard serves as an access to not only Metra parking, but also the kiss and ride areas. Traffic flow is complicated during rush hour as Burlington Boulevard is offset on either side of Prairie Avenue. This also makes the area very difficult for pedestrians.
Existing Streetscape Enhancements
Pedestrian scaled lighting coupled with banners are the only regularly used streetscape element; benches and street trees can be found in limited locations. Diagonal parking lines both sides of Grand Boulevard, buffering pedestrians on the sidewalks and serving the adjacent businesses. The existing streetwall and the off-street parking create a fairly rewarding pedestrian environment. The block between Brookfield Avenue and the next cross street, Grant Avenue, is very long, but it is broken up with a well-placed mid-block crossing.
There are approximately 425 on-street, non-Metra parking spaces within the Subarea. During several weekday (morning and evening) observations of the Subarea, the on-street spaces were generally available. In the residential areas around the station, on-street parking requires a permit to park between the hours of 7 a.m.and 9a.m. to discourage commuter parking and reserve these spaces for local residents and their guests. The restricted permit parking also promotes the use of the paid Metra parking facilities. A municipal owned parking lot on Prairie Avenue south of Burlington Boulevard serves the local businesses during the day and the restaurants and bars in the evening.
Almost 100 commuter trains pass through the Village of Brookfield per day during the work week. The Brookfield Station has the highest number of train stations and ridership of the three stations within the Village. The approximately 250 dedicated parking spaces for Metra riders, divided into five lots of which four are permit only and the fifth is a pay lot ($1/day), are almost filled to capacity during the work week by the approximately 660 daily commuters. The Brookfield Station houses the only ticket window in Brookfield.
Brookfield Station is currently undergoing cosmetic renovations, including new paint and landscaping. The station experiences the same challenges as many other Chicago area Metra stations; a high number of users access the station by automobile, consequently, adequate and convenient parking is in high demand. Meeting this demand in an established community is difficult due to limited vacant land. Creative parking solutions can ease the burden, as can the promotion of other travel modes, including bicycling, walking, and Pace (Route 331 serves the station, along Prairie Avenue).
Proposed Redevelopment Plans
The redevelopment plans for the Brookfield Station Subarea, found at the end of this section, are long range, illustrative plans to guide growth and change. Redevelopment of the Brookfield Station area will occur over time and most likely in phases, as constructing a new building or renovating a façade can be expensive endeavors. It is important to prioritize opportunities and work to achieve short-term changes, such as requiring pedestrian oriented signage and well-screened, landscaped parking lots. These simpler steps toward redevelopment can help build momentum for the projects on a greater scale and show progress toward the larger redevelopment goals.
During the public process, there was a desire among residents to attract more entertainment type commercial uses to downtown Brookfield, including restaurants, theatre, and an art studio, and more retail uses such as a bookstore. Many residents also believe there is an opportunity to attract more people into the downtown with mixed-use development (commercial on the first floor and residential or office uses on the upper floors). To achieve the right mix of uses, it is important to review the existing zoning regulations.
Revise Permitted and Prohibited Uses
As previously stated, the C-3 Centralized Commercial District is intended to foster the development of a pedestrian-oriented commercial district. The C-3 district, however, allows gas stations by right and requires a special use for outdoor cafes, which seems to contradict its stated intent. On the other hand, the district allows residential on the upper floors of mixed-use buildings by right an important element in pedestrian-oriented areas. The uses in the C3 district should promote the development of businesses that are compatible with its intent.
Encourage Residential Development in the Study Area
Residential uses on the first floor in the C-3 district are prohibited without planned development approval. It is a good idea to limit first floor residential on the core retail streets within the downtown, such as Grand Boulevard, but on the side streets this type of residential development should be encouraged, including Sunnyside, Fairview, and Grant Avenues. Creating an overlay district that designates where which types of residential development (first floor or upper floors only) are most appropriate will encourage residential development without a lengthy zoning process.
Create Bulk Requirements Appropriate for a Mixed-Use, Transit-Oriented Area
Bulk regulations must also be reviewed to better fit with the Village’s redevelopment vision. Consensus at the public meetings was for up to four-story buildings in the downtown, however, the Zoning Code restricts buildings to a maximum of three stories.
Establish Parking Regulations Unique to a Mixed-Use, Transit-Oriented Area
The current code requires two off-street parking spaces per residential unit, regardless of the unit’s size (number of bedrooms). One space per one- and two-bedroom unit is more appropriate. In a transit-oriented, pedestrian friendly downtown, different standards should be applied than if the same square footage of development occurred elsewhere in the community. Residents on the upper floors of mixed-use buildings in the downtown have most likely chosen to the live in this location to take advantage of Metra to access their place of employment; the automobiles of these residents may not be moved during the day. Dedicated residential spaces, in the rear of the building or internal to the building, are required. Employees of the businesses in the mixed-use buildings should have access to parking in nearby municipal lots, such as the lot south of Burlington Boulevard on Prairie Avenue. Some of the dedicated spaces in the rear of the building or internal to the buildings can also be dedicated to employees. Visitors of the residents and business patrons can take advantage of the on-street parking and share any remaining off-street parking.
The SWOT analysis performed at the first public meeting for the pedestrian-oriented subareas highlighted the importance of the downtown’s high visibility from the train. It was also said that the appearance of the downtown in the evening and at night is not welcoming as few businesses have evening hours and the area appears dark. Since many visitors will first see Brookfield as they pass by on the train, it is important to create a favorable first impression day or night.
Focus Redevelopment Efforts on the Properties Along the Train Tracks
The highest priority areas for redevelopment in downtown Brookfield are the lots around the intersections directly north and south of the tracks, as these are highly visible to thousands of commuters who pass by each day. Buildings in these areas are shown on the illustrative plans to be constructed to the property lines with rear parking accessed from alleys and side streets or internal parking areas to prevent gaps in the streetwall. The buildings at the intersections should be mixed-use buildings of three- to four-stories, especially the corner buildings, as these help to define the rest of the block. The upper floors of these new buildings provide additional space for residential units, creating an area that is active during both business and evening hours.
West of the intersection on both Brookfield Avenue and Burlington Boulevard, new residential buildings are proposed. Also built to the street, these buildings provide residential units in close proximity to the conveniences of the downtown and the train station. It is important to provide a variety of types of housing in the redeveloping downtown, including rental and for sale apartments and town homes. Parking for these residential buildings should be internal to the new buildings or in the rear of the buildings off the alleys to limit the number of gaps in the streetwall and to reduce the number of shared vehicular-pedestrian pathways.
Encourage the Use of Traditional Façade Design in Both New Construction and Building Renovation
The highest rated images in the Image Preference Survey possessed similar traits; they were developed with traditional façade elements. These elements, such as large storefront display windows, horizontal banding, and vertically hung windows on the upper floors with horizontally repeating windowsills, provide a building with character and depth. The façade of the building is also critical in creating a positive first impression of an area.
Create a Set of Design Guidelines that Reflect the Community’s Character Preferences
Traditional design element preferences can be illustrated through a set of Design Guidelines, which can be used to shape redevelopment through new construction and building rehabilitation. Design Guidelines are generally not codified, such as a building or zoning regulations. Use of the Guidelines can be encouraged through the development of a municipal downtown façade rehabilitation grant program, which requires compliance for funding. Several elements within the Guidelines can also be incorporated into the Zoning Ordinance, including building placement on the lot (setbacks) and landscape screening of parking lots and loading zones. A set of Design Guidelines for the pedestrian-oriented subareas in Brookfield is included in this report.
This redevelopment plan also focuses on improving circulation around the train station and the downtown by better defining pedestrian and vehicular pathways and through aesthetic improvements such as cohesive streetscape enhancements. These improvements will also help visitors create a positive first impression of the area.
Create Clear Pathways through the Proposed Roundabout
Clear circulation paths are critical in a pedestrian-oriented area—for both vehicles and pedestrians. The installation of a mini-roundabout in the intersection north of the tracks slows the speed of vehicles as they pass through the downtown.
Roundabouts are useful in pedestrian-oriented areas as they force pedestrians to pay attention when crossing the street, rather than automatically moving when the walk signal is illuminated or a car comes to a stop at the crossbar.
Splitter islands, dividing the lanes entering and exiting the roundabout, provide a spot of refuge for those pedestrians unable to cross the travel lanes in one movement. The splitter islands also serve the function of allowing a pedestrian to cross with one-way traffic flow. The crosswalks are raised in the proposed plans and are created with different pavement markings to further highlight pedestrian paths. The roundabout should only be considered after appropriate engineering and safety studies have been conducted.
When designing a roundabout in close proximity to railroad tracks, it is important to prevent traffic from being forced to stop on the tracks. This can be handled through the placement and timing of the gates. If traffic volumes were to significantly increase on Prairie Avenue, a bypass lane or separate right turn lane can be created to funnel traffic away from the tracks.
South of the train tracks, the intersection of Burlington Boulevard and Prairie Avenue is realigned to remove the current jog in Burlington Boulevard. Many residents reported that the intersection was difficult to traverse, especially during peak traffic hours. To further assist pedestrians, the redevelopment plans illustrate the reduction of the crossing distance on Burlington Boulevard, shifting Metra parking to the north and adding a landscaped median (and additional Metra parking), which serves as a pedestrian refuge area.
Design and Install Streetscape Improvements
improvements are also important when creating a pedestrian-friendly
environment as they make an area more interesting and provide
functional benefits such as shade and appropriate lighting. The
streetscape enhancements in the Brookfield Station Subarea
redevelopment plan include wider sidewalks, bulb-outs, and the
maintenance of on-street parking. These features help to define the
pedestrian realm and create a buffer between the faster moving vehicles
and the pedestrians. Street furniture, such as benches, trash
receptacles, and bike racks, and pedestrian scaled lighting should also
be included in the streetscape design. When selecting these elements,
it is not necessary for the pieces to
be identical, but each piece should fit into shoppers to access the platform, parking, the larger theme or design for an area. and shops on both sides of the tracks.
Limit New Curb Cuts on Key Pedestrian Streets
Existing curb cuts should be shifted to alleys and side streets to reduce the gaps in the streetwall, creating a more pleasant and a safer pedestrian environment. Existing parking lots adjacent to the right-of-way should be screened using landscape and decorative fencing. New curb cuts, especially on Grand and Burlington Boulevards and Prairie and Brookfield Avenues, should be avoided.
Use Wayfinding Signs to Direct Visitors to Areas of Interest
Wayfinding signs are also important features in a pedestrian-oriented downtown; they should be both attractive and useful. The Village of Brookfield is fortunate to have the Brookfield Zoo. Signage should direct visitors, regardless of how they arrived, to the area’s attractions. A critical new connection, illustrated in the redevelopment plan, is a pathway along the north side of the railroad tracks that links the downtown to the Hollywood Station and the Zoo Walk. The creation of this pathway will require the assistance of the Burlington Northern – Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF), as a portion of the pathway is on their right-of-way. Landscape screening and decorative fencing will be required as a safety buffer.
Circulation Around the Train Station
The heart of the pedestrian-oriented downtown is the Brookfield Station. The PedZoneSM analysis of existing conditions highlights that the pedestrian pathways around the station are unrewarding or in conflict with vehicles. The illustrative redevelopment plans highlights several changes to the area immediately around the station to improve pedestrian access, as well as vehicular and bicycle facilities.
Create a Continuous Pathway for Pedestrians Over the Tracks
A pedestrian overpass is recommended to create a constant path for commuters and wheelchairs and strollers.
Increase the Quantity of Metra Parking
Additional parking is shown south of the station. This parking creates spaces for those traveling to the station by car and allows the alignment of Burlington Boulevard. It is strongly recommended that this parking be a pay lot during weekday commutes and open to the public in the evenings and on weekends, as its creation reduces on-street diagonal parking to parallel parking on Burlington Boulevard. Additional vehicular parking can be developed along the BNSF right-of-way on the south side of Brookfield Avenue, as it is needed. Many of these changes along the railroad will require coordination with the BNSF line, as some of the improvements encroach upon their right-of-way.
Create Sufficient and Convenient Bicycle Facilities
A new bicycle parking facility is proposed west of the Brookfield Station. Bicycle parking currently exists, but it is not sufficient. On several occasions, it was observed that bicycles were parked in other non-designated locations along the tracks. Creating a clearly designated area with good equipment may remove a barrier for many potential cyclists. Improving circulation in and around the station for all modes of transportation may help to increase Metra ridership.
Work with Pace to Increase Service in the Subarea
currently serves the Subarea with Route #331 – Cumberland – 5th Avenue.
There is a desire on the part of Village of Brookfield to have shuttle
service between the Metra stations, downtown, and Brookfield Zoo. An
adjusted Pace route could also serve this function. The Village should
work with Pace to review the routes through the community and the
The impact of these improvements can be seen in the Proposed PedZoneSM Analysis found at the end of this section.