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Burlington Mayor Explains Moran Demolition Decision

Moran Plant from east
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Moran Plant from east

In 1957, the Moran Municipal Generating Station began generating electricity for the city of Burlington. In 1982, it shut down and ownership was transferred to the city in 1986.  Since then a number of unsuccessful proposals have been made to redevelop the building. Three years ago, voters approved a ballot measure that authorized city officials to work with developers New Moran Incorporated on a final attempt to create a redevelopment plan. But Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger felt it was time to make a final decision on the building.When Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger announced last Friday that Moran Plant redevelopment efforts had proved fruitless, he also released the Moran Deconstruction and Demolition Study, which outlines the history of the plant as an electric generating station and years of redevelopment concepts presented to the city.

Weinberger said Friday Burlington and New Moran, Inc.,  the latest group that hoped to redevelop the building, had agreed to cease discussions after failing to reach agreement on Tax Increment Financing — or TIFF — funds and a long-term lease of the building. Weinberger had hoped it would be part of the effort that has revitalized the waterfront.  “We took a slate of improvements to the voters in March of 2014 and that passed by about 70 percent.  And we have been using these Tax Increment Financing funds approved by the voters to really make some dramatic improvements to that northern waterfront. The one part of this plan however, the biggest part of the plan in terms of any sort of single element of it, has been the hope that we could redevelop the Moran Plant.  And the New Moran proposal of food and event space is something that the voters liked and frankly I liked.  I really hoped that it would succeed.”

But, Weinberger says, while the city had given New Moran three and a half years to put a plan together, the effort came up short.  “The New Moran team worked hard on it and they brought a lot of creativity and energy to it. And after three and a half years of waiting and giving this effort a chance to go forward the city felt that at this point it was time to recognize that this was not going to work and that we needed to turn in a different direction.”

So last Friday Mayor Weinberger announced the city had ended its redevelopment discussions and released the initial demolition report.  “The point of last week’s announcement in part was that it isn’t so straightforward just to take down the building. The work we have done in the last year really documents that any kind of demolition will be very expensive and that expense will vary depending on what we want to do with the site afterwards. And there are regulatory issues at stake. So we are turning our attention to that with a different eye than I think the city has ever had in the past. You know we are no longer focused on the question of how do we fully redevelop and reuse this building.  We are now going to come up with a plan that works for the site as a complement to all the other progress on the northern waterfront.”

Burlington Business Association Executive Director Kelly Devine says the community has long sought creative reuse of the Moran Plant building.   “I think we need to look at that site in terms of what it can add to the north end of the waterfront.  If the building is demolished and it’s returned to greenspace my members, particularly my waterfront action group members, would say that isn’t the best outcome because we have a lot of park space.  So ideally we’d be hoping that the city would consider in its site resolution plan some other redevelopment option.”

Ward 4 City Councilor Kurt Wright had hoped to see the building refurbished.  “I’m disappointed but we have to live up to the word that we gave to the people of Burlington when this was voted on. And the spirit of that was that if this didn’t work, this development proposal, that the building was going to be torn down.  That it couldn’t just drag on forever.”

Mayor Weinberger anticipates the next year will be spent investigating options, developing conceptual designs and engaging the public.

The Demolition Study outlines four scenarios that include environmental, water quality, historic preservation and financial issues.

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