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Brown Deer unveils new downtown district

June 4, 2014

Brown Deer — Brown Deer's "Eat and Greet on the Street" on Saturday will celebrate a downtown restoration project that has been more than a decade in the making.

The streetscaping project along Deerwood Drive and River Lane was first envisioned in the late 1990s, when village officials decided to create a tax incremental finance district to redevelop the original downtown district.

The TIF district and project designs weren't created until 2005, and the project hit another road block in a legal battle over right-of-way issues in 2012. Construction shovels finally dug into the ground in May 2013.

The project will be 99 percent complete when the community gathers for food, fun and music Saturday night. Some landscaping and touch-up work has yet to be finished.

The construction project, which cost a little more than $3 million, installed new sanitary sewer and storm water systems, along with sidewalk and roadway surfaces, decorative lighting, brick and landscaping in the area.

Overhead utility lines were buried, formal street parking was established and storm water ponds were created. The area also features a historical plaza, gateway signs, bike racks, benches and connections to the Oak Leaf Trail.

Village officials hope the facelift will not only modernize local infrastructure but also invigorate the economy of the "original village," a triangular area bounded by Brown Deer Road on the north, Green Bay Road on the east and 43rd Street on the west.

The "original village" was the first area of Brown Deer to be settled, as early as 1832, when Green Bay Road was established as a federal highway. Shortly after that, in the 1870s, a one-room schoolhouse was established, along with local businesses and worker cottages, said Nate Piotrowski, the village's Community Development Director.

The essence of the downtown area was diminished in the 1960s with the re-routing of Brown Deer and Green Bay Roads. Many longtime businesses have remained in the area, but Piotrowski said the village wanted to ensure the economic vitality of the area.

"We think this is a unique neighborhood with unique businesses, so we as a village wanted to help reinvest in the neighborhood on a micro scale," he said.

The official grand opening block party, called "Eat and Greet on the Street," will be held Saturday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Festivities will be held on Deerwood Drive from River Lane to Ruth Place. Deerwood Drive will open for pedestrian traffic only and be closed to all vehicle traffic.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 4:30 p.m., featuring appearances from U.S. Congresswoman Gwen Moore, along with State Sen. Alberta Darling and State Rep. Dan Knodl.

The live music lineup includes a performance from the Brown Deer High School Jazz Band at 4 p.m.; a performance from the Brown Deer High School Pep Band at 5 p.m.; and a performance from 5 Card Studs from 5:45 p.m. to 8 p.m. Food and beverages will be available for purchase from Larry's Market, Poco Loco, Prime Time Pub, River Lane Inn and Schulz's Deli.

IF YOU GO

What: Eat and Greet on the Street

When: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday

Where: Deerwood Drive from River Lane to Ruth Place

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