Whether the village of Brown Deer will choose to implement any of the suggestions, a study of the West Brown Deer Road corridor, on the north side of the street from North 51st to North 60th streets, offers food for thought.
Four graduate students in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Architecture and Urban Planning did the study as their Capstone Project, a hands-on experience in urban planning.
Tim Schaefer, Dan Bialzik, Jennifer Hanrahan and Stephanie Allewalt worked from January through May, studying the retail market, holding a focus group meeting to talk with stakeholders in the corridor, studying zoning and considering design guidelines and landscaping improvements that might be undertaken along the road.
The stakeholders included not only the property owners on the north side of the street but those who live across the street, both in single-family homes and at Royal Garden Condominiums.
Developers have shown an interest in the area, but rather than redevelop it in a hodgepodge manner, the village decided to ask for the graduate students' help, a free service that benefits both the village and the students.
Bialzik, Allewalt and Schaefer presented their results at a recent Plan Commission meeting.
Bialzik said the north side of Brown Deer Road had many commercial vacancies along with an underutilization of space and a lack of identity. Included along the strip is a manufacturing plant, several office buildings and a church.
At the focus group meetings, residents suggested providing incentives to businesses to improve landscaping, a greater variety of plants on medians and lowering street lights to a pedestrian scale.
"They also wanted only two-story buildings," Bialzik said.
An upscale grocery store and a fine dining or family-style restaurant were suggested, but the residents did not want fast food restaurants or strip malls.
After reviewing all the data collected during the spring semester, the group proposed a change that would spur redevelopment by creating larger parcels through rezoning, suggested design guidelines to channel the development in ways preferred by residents and encouraged the village to adopt green applications in its code. Green applications would include green roofs, rain gardens and pervious pavement to reduce stormwater runoff.
The suggestions included changes to the zoning code that would eliminate parking in front of buildings but allow it to the side or rear. The students also proposed a new zoning designation for mixed-use development.
The group recommended landscaping changes along the street and the inclusion of a bike path from North 51st to North 60th streets.
Schaefer said a retail analysis proved people at the focus groups were in tune with their neighborhood.
The analysis showed a lack of grocery stores, family clothing and jewelry stores, among other things.
"That matched what people said they would like to have," Schaefer said.
The analysis was done using the 53223 ZIP code, which also includes Milwaukee.
The final recommendation includes a proposal for a grocery store at the corner of North 51st Street and Brown Deer Road, splitting the large parcel on the northwest corner into two parcels to allow for the store on the corner. At 55th Street, the students proposed a coffee shop or restaurant along with a clothing or jewelry store, and at 60th Street, a pharmacy.
A group of UW-Milwaukee students did a similar study on West Bradley Road several years ago. Some of that study was used in planning the Bradley Village development now under way. The intense study of the Brown Deer Road corridor likely also will be used as a starting point in plans for future development and redevelopment.
Mary Buckley can be reached at email@example.com or (262) 446-6615.
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