City of Brookfield

Click the image to learn more. Three men provide a ski demonstration for onlookers at the Brookfield Square Mall in 1980. Opened in 1967, it was the first enclosed mall in the Milwaukee area.

The City of Brookfield is located in the northeast corner of Waukesha County. It is north of New Berlin, south of Menomonee Falls, and east of Pewaukee. According to the U.S. Census, the City of Brookfield had almost thirty-eight thousand residents in 2010. Its elected officials include a common council of fourteen alderpersons and a mayor. They serve four-year terms, and half the common council stands for election every two years. Brookfield also has an assessor, a city attorney, a city clerk, and a municipal judge.[1] It is part of the Elmbrook School District, which also includes the Village of Elm Grove and parts of the Town of Brookfield and the City of New Berlin. The district had ten schools as of 2018. Both high schools and one of the two middle schools are in the City of Brookfield.[2]

By 1954, the once-rural Town of Brookfield had taken on a suburban character. Neighboring communities had begun to annex Town land. The City of Milwaukee had expanded very quickly in the 1950s, and Brookfield, like other nearby suburbs, chose to incorporate before being annexed by Milwaukee. The new city was carved out of land from the Town of Brookfield. The city was initially 17.5 square miles, but it continued to annex Town land and had grown to twenty-seven square miles in area in 2017. The Town continues to exist but in a reduced size. Franklin Wirth was the city’s first mayor.[3]

Brookfield has very deliberate zoning laws. The “Brookfield Concept,” as the city calls it, requires houses to be built on large open lots. In 1985, for example, the minimum lot size for a single-family home was twenty-thousand square feet. Large lots made housing unaffordable for low-income persons. Brookfield also developed several office parks and shopping districts along Interstate-94 and Bluemound Road. These developments took off after the mayoral election of 1986, when Kate Bloomberg was elected on a platform of revising the zoning code and encouraging development. Brookfield has also preserved a small historic district that it refers to as the “Village of Brookfield.” Although the Village of Brookfield has a board, it is a neighborhood within the city of Brookfield, not a separate municipal entity.[4]

Brookfield Square is the largest of the shopping districts. It opened in 1967 with approximately sixty stores and services, including three anchor stores—Boston Store, JCPenney, and Sears. It also had a single-screen movie theater, a Kohl’s Food Store, a Walgreens, a Woolworth’s, and local Milwaukee department store T.A. Chapman. Of those stores, only JCPenney was still open by late 2018. The mall has redeveloped itself multiple times, adding residential space, new high-end and national chain stores, and more dining options, including moderately upscale restaurants.[5]

Brookfield’s zoning laws effectively continue to restrict home ownership to upper-income persons. Its residents had a median household income of more than $92,000 in 2015, and 97 percent of its residents had health insurance coverage. More than 85 percent of its residents live in single-family homes.[6]

Footnotes [+]

  1. ^Government,” City of Brookfield, Wisconsin website, last accessed July 9, 2017; United States Census Bureau, “Brookfield city, Wisconsin,” pages/community_facts.xhtml, last accessed July 9, 2017.
  2. ^Elmbrook Schools,” School District of Elmbrook website, last accessed July 10, 2017.
  3. ^About Brookfield,” City of Brookfield, Wisconsin website, last accessed July 9, 2017.
  4. ^Brookfield Concept,” City of Brookfield, Wisconsin website, last accessed July 9, 2017; “Zoning,” City of Brookfield website, last accessed July 9, 2017; Doris A. Hajewski, “Brookfield: Suburb’s Classy Image Was Carefully Planned,” Milwaukee Journal, April 11, 1985, Accent section: 1; Deborah Locke, “Kate Bloomburg and Her Blooming Burg,” Milwaukee Journal, July 25, 1993; and the Village of Brookfield website, last accessed July 10, 2017.
  5. ^ “Brookfield Square: It Comes Alive,” special section, Milwaukee Journal, October 24, 1967; Rick Barrett, “9 New Stores Planned for Brookfield Square Mall,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 17, 2013; and Lisa Sink, “Brookfield Square Gets $21 Million Boost,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 18, 2004.
  6. ^ “Brookfield city, Wisconsin,” United States Census Bureau, community_facts.xhtml#, last accessed July 1, 2017;, last accessed March 9, 2018.

For Further Reading

Brookfield’s 50th Birthday. Wisconsin: Community Newspapers, 2004

Hajewski, Doris A. “Brookfield: Suburb’s Classy Image Was Carefully Planned,” Milwaukee Journal, April 11, 1985, Accent Section: 1.

Historic Landmark Tour: Brookfield, Elm Grove, Wisconsin, 3rd ed. Brookfield, WI: Kettlemore Moraine Questers,1991.

Houser, Stephen K., and Jean R. Stackpole. Following the Trail. Marceline, MO: Heritage House Pub., 1998.

Locke, Deborah. “Kate Bloomburg and Her Blooming Burg.” Milwaukee Journal, July 25, 1993.

Ramstack, Thomas. Brookfield: A Fine and Fertile Land: An Early History of the Town of Brookfield, Waukesha County, Wisconsin. Two volumes. Milwaukee: Thomas Ramstack 2007.

Ramstack, Thomas. Brookfield and Elm Grove. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2009.

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