September 10th, 2019 12:47 PM
New look: On Sept. 20, business owners along Broadway Avenue in the Eight Corners business district invite residents to celebrate the completion of a road construction project that interrupted business for four months. (Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer)
By Jackie Pisano
If you've had occasion to drive through Brookfield much this summer, one area you may have tried to avoid was Broadway Avenue, which has been under construction for months.
Since late May, the Broadway Avenue business corridor was improved as part of the village's major 2019 reconstruction and resurfacing project on the north end of town, an undertaking which collectively totaled nearly $4.6 million, all of which was funded through bond proceeds approved by Brookfield voters in 2016.
Broadway Avenue work throughout the summer included concrete structure repairs, pavement improvements, the installation of 18 decorative street lights along Broadway Avenue's median, five new street lights around Veterans Memorial Circle and a new light on the traffic island at Broadway and Monroe avenues.
And now, to mark the end of the months-long construction project, business owners along Broadway Avenue have come together to sweep the dust off their doorsteps and re-welcome patrons to their businesses with the "All Roads Lead to Broadway" event from 4 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 20.
Throughout the evening, business owners will open their doors to residents, who can enjoy light refreshments and conversation, and get reacquainted with the services the businesses provide.
Participating businesses will be offering special discounts, giveaways and promotions, and patrons who get a business "passport" stamped as they travel along Broadway Avenue will be entered into a raffle for a chance to win a door prize worth $500.
According to Charlene Vickery, owner of FocusOm yoga studio, the event was the brainchild of her, Linda Tischler of Tischler Finer Foods, Betty LeClere of Betty's Flowers & Gifts and Mary Vasquez of Mary's Morning Mix Up, after they came together in early August to discuss how they could team up to host a sort of grand re-opening of Broadway Avenue.
"It is truly a homegrown, grassroots effort, allowing us local businesses to band together and promote each other's unique offerings to the community," Vickery said.
Though business owners were happy to see the dilapidated streets and walkways finally getting the attention they deserved, Vickery said the extensive construction resulted in slower business for most everyone this summer.
"Typically, the summer months do slow down the traffic [of the yoga studio] because the weather offers other exercise options," she said. "But this summer, our regulars reported constant frustration with the daily closures of the street, the noise during practice and the general annoyance of limited parking and access. I know that my fellow business owners expressed similar situations."
While Clara D'Onofrio of Ms. Clara's Joyful Learning Center believes construction did have an impact on her business, she says her clients seemed to do their best to adapt to the circumstances.
"Our classes run in 10-week sessions, and summer registration had already started when the construction began, so all of the registered families just found a way to deal with the inconvenience," D'Onofrio said.
She noted significantly fewer mid-session registrations and free-trial students. More than once she heard from parents outside of Brookfield, who would call saying they were confused by the street detours.
"They just gave up and went home," she said. "That, of course, was quite frustrating, but I also understand the necessity and temporary nature of the project."
She added that the only time she heard complaints from her regular patrons was on rainy days, when the south side of Broadway Avenue was closed.
"Parents had to push strollers or walk with very young children down to the end of the block and back again in the rain instead of just parking right out front or crossing the street in the middle of the block," she said. "That's a minor inconvenience on a nice day, but for a parent of a young child trying to navigate through pretty heavy rainstorms with either a stroller or a very young child, it became quite the ordeal."
Despite the challenges that both business owners and patrons may have faced from the construction, both Vickery and D'Onofrio say they are happy with the fresh look of the sidewalks and streets.
"On the other side of this construction is the beautiful walkways, lighting and smooth streets that my patrons will now experience when they return," Vickery said.
Due to the slower pace of clientele, Vickery took advantage of the extra time by renovating her studio's front entrance.
"I have enjoyed painting and talking with my neighbors as they passed by, appreciating the beauty I was adding to the neighborhood," she said.
D'Onofrio says she is pleased Brookfield took the time to make the improvements to better the community.
"I really do like the street lights, and I think the paved pedestrian walkways that cross Broadway Avenue look very nice," she said. "Broadway Avenue has so many fun, diverse, and cultural businesses, and I am very optimistic that more and more families will explore this major artery of downtown Brookfield."
Businesses and organizations participating in the event include FocusOm Yoga and Wellness Studio, Tischler Finer Foods, Mary's Morning Mix-Up, Betty's Flowers & Gifts, Off Broadway Pub, Compassion Factory and Compassion United Methodist Church, More Than Hair Ltd, Ms. Clara's Joyful Learning Center, For the Birds, Beach Avenue BBQ, Montessori Children's Community, G. Blando Jewelers, Heart of Touch Massage & Birth Support, Brookfield Chamber of Commerce, First National Bank of Brookfield, Brookfield Zoo and Rotary Club of Brookfield Riverside