Jobs, big projects, awards and achievements. Oh and there was an election. Actually there were a few elections. If we go all the way back to the spring — you know, that time that we’re all dying to get to again at this point — voters hit the polls then too. For what it’s worth, a lot of what happened in Brookfield and Elm Grove this year is on the business side of things, so if you haven’t yet, check out our top business stories of the year.
Here's a look at some of the top stories in Brookfield and Elm Grove in 2016.
1. Developments drive job creation
As the economic recovery from the Great Recession continues, many communities have seen a spurt of new projects and construction taking place. The city and town of Brookfield are not strangers to that experience. In all, current projects in the area are expected to create over 5,000 new jobs in the years to come.
2. Elm Grove downtown gets improvement, faces more changes
This was technically two stories, but it all comes back to bringing the quaint and high-quality downtown of Elm Grove to an even higher level. For years, the village has been looking to replace the bridge over Underwood Creek on Watertown Plank Road. There were some bumps along the way, but it finally got done this year. Now, village officials’ attention has shifted largely to a newly proposed project by Wangard Partners that would see the redevelopment of the Reinders Property.
3. Apartment approvals keep coming
It’s a common trend for baby boomers turned empty nesters to downsize their residences. In Brookfield, the city is attempting to keep up with that trend by having a wider variety of housing options available to residents who might want to downsize, but also want to stay in the community. Last November, a consultant told the city that it would likely need between 500 and 700 new apartment units by 2020. So far, proposed projects that could help Brookfield reach that figure have not been hard to come by.
4. City of Brookfield named a “Best Small City”
A year or two ago the village of Elm Grove was named, by Business Insider, as the best suburb in America. The city of Brookfield has its own claim to fame now after WalletHub conducted a study on cities with populations between 25,000 and 100,000 and found it to be in the 99th percentile.
5. Town of Brookfield administrator set to retire
After more than 13 years at the helm of the town of Brookfield, town administrator Rick Czopp has announced his intention to retire. Czopp started in Brookfield in 2003 after having previously served as administrator in the village of Bristol. Czopp labeled The Corners as one of his crowning achievements and plans to travel with his wife after retiring.
6. Local elections show satisfaction with city council
One of the more interesting trends that continued in the city of Brookfield in 2016 came from the spring elections. Three incumbent aldermen were able to fend off challengers and retain their seats on the common council. They joined a growing streak of victories for incumbents in the city, where an alderman has not lost his or her seat to a challenger in over a decade.
7. Brookfield native earns Navy honor
It had been nearly four decades since a Wisconsin native had graduated first in their class from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. Brookfield East alumni Tom Wester put an end to that run by earning the honor in May.
8. Community roots run deep
When Gregory Smith’s mother died in 2014, it might’ve been understandable for him to make a social retreat or drift away from other parts of his life. His closest friends weren’t about to let that happen. Now, Smith and four of his closest friends have embarked on an epic journey inspired by his late mother. Together, they are tackling a bucket list that was originally conceived from Smith's mother's dreams, but now they've made it their own by each adding aspirations to the list, such as jumping off the Upper Twin Falls Bridge near Iron Mountain, Michigan.
9. Elmbrook School District looks to combat teen suicide
In response to tragedy, the Elmbrook School District has implemented a number of new efforts to protect its students. With the start of the 2016-17 school year, the district has reached a point where it has been able to begin using some of those programs and more are on the horizon.
10. Voters will not be allowed to vote on TIFs
A commonly controversial topic in the city of Brookfield of late has been the use of tax incremental financing (TIF) districts in order to provide financial aid for developers looking to build projects. A number of aldermen have expressed concerns over the use of the economic development tool and some recommended allowing residents to vote directly on the approval of TIFs rather than having the common council make the decision. It’s a topic that actually stretches back to 2015 when Jerry Mellone and Christopher Blackburn initially made their legislative referral on the subject, but it wasn’t finally voted upon until this year.