The to gather information on what Brookfield residents want to see in the Town Center District (TCD) came to a close Thursday night with a presentation of a preliminary vision of a pedestrian- and commercial-friendly, New England-style village for the area known as Four Corners.
The conceptual plan is to split the Four Corners into four quadrants, each with a network of walking paths, designated parking areas and traffic flow all designed to minimize the need to turn on and off of Federal Road.
The main stretch itself, Route 202, formerly a major commuter throughway before the completion of the Super 7 bypass, would slow down, becoming more of an outdoor mall, with wide walking and biking paths and plenty of seating and “green space.”
The proposed vision is for a “great place to sit and just enjoy yourself,” said Carol Gould, team leader from FHI Consulting, the planning firm hired to conduct the study and form an action plan to help development move forward. “We have some public plazas, gathering places, perhaps some off-street plazas — which was not a favorite [in public surveys] but perhaps secondary — but we’ll definitely keep the character and the historic elements of the Craft Center.”
According to Gould, preference surveys showed that residents wanted to see plenty of benches and wide, safe walking areas.
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When it comes to walking, studies have shown that “people like choices — how much sun they want to get, how much they don’t want to get, how much shopping they want to do and how much nature they want to be absorbed in,” Senior Planner Francisco Gomes said, describing plans for pedestrian routes through each quadrant, as well as multi-use nature trails in the wetlands to the west and along the Still River to the east.
As part of the proposal, the TCD would be anchored in the north by a medium sized grocery store, such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.
“We see this very much as an anchor or a bookend,” Gomes said, referring to lot where Barn Yard and Great Country Garages is now, with mixed-used “infill” development south toward the intersection.
That stretch “has some missing teeth,” he said, and doesn’t have a consistent façade, but if developed properly could accommodate retail and offices as well as residential, with plenty of room for parking and walking paths in the rear if lots along the Still River can be consolidated.
“It isn’t as simple as buying out properties, but getting property owners together to realize they may benefit in a number of ways” by coming together, Gomes said, adding, “It’s a long road, it’s not as simple as just recommending it.”
However, there are developers and property owners interested in moving forward, provided there is a consensus on direction.
According to Gomes, the southwest quadrant would be a prime place to start.
“This could really be the catalyst for everything else that happens here,” he said. “This might be your core area for development of medical offices, doctors offices, it has potential to develop into a campus down there. Up north, there’s more potential for residential,” some of it mixed in as second and third floors to retail establishments.
The retail landscape would be “more ‘boutique-y’ kind of shops,” Senior Project Manager Michael Morehouse said, as the “general region is kind of retailed out” when it comes to big box stores. “This is going to have to be a unique place,” populated with restaurants and specialty shops.
After meeting with the Steering Committee to finalize the concept plan, the consultants will develop an implementation plan to guide development.
“We have some ideas but we really have to put them on paper and put some substance to them,” Gould said.
The consultants expect to present the final plan to a joint session of town’s boards and land use commissions in the coming months and “anticipate wrapping this up by October,” she said.