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Scaled Down Plan For Downtown Redevelopment Presented To Burlington City Councilors

The developers of a stalled development in the center of Burlington appeared before the City Council Monday night to present a scaled-back plan. As WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports, they gave assurances that the project will move forward.
In late September, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger wrote to the developers of CityPlace expressing frustration over the lack of progress during the past year.  He noted that Brookfield was “not in compliance with numerous obligations under the Development Agreement dated as of October 26, 2017…”  The mayor required the developers to take several actions, including provide an updated development plan to the City Council by October 28th , and give assurances that any plan will service a $21.8 million TIF (Tax Increment Funding) debt.

The team from Brookfield Properties presented a scaled down development plan to city leaders Monday evening. Vice President of Mixed Use Development Aanen Olsen said the complex would now be a maximum 10 stories rather than 14 and a hotel has been added.  “What we’re proposing is an adaptive reuse of the Macy’s building, putting our office tenant in there thereby reducing the overall height of the project of the middle block by more than 50 feet. The plan also maintains the connection of the street grid as well as some of the previously approved amenities like the rooftop observation deck and the community space. The new proposed project is 8 levels of residential over retail, a simplified parking structure in the middle and a hotel use over retail along Bank Street.”

There were numerous questions from city councilors.  Ward 8 Independent Adam Roof zeroed in on a key issue: the availability of housing.  “Can you give us a sense on what the differences might be around the housing that was expected in the original plan and what we can expect to see with new housing units coming on line as part of this plan?”
Olsen:  “This new plan actually preserves every single unit that was proposed in the original plan and may even have space for more. So we are tracking someplace between 280 and 300 units as was originally approved.”

City Council President and Ward 4 Republican Kurt Wright quizzed developers about costs.  “Will the proposal now that’s being put forth before us service the $21.8 million TIF debt?”
Olsen:  “That is something we’re working on as we speak and we are confident that it will.”
Wright:  “The first proposal, which was 14 stories and everything else, was I think projected to be about $225 million. Can you tell us what the total cost of this project is?”
Olsen:  “I, I can’t. Not tonight.”

Mayor Weinberger called the presentation by Brookfield a step in the right direction.  “This comes after Brookfield has met the other steps laid out in my September 27th letter. I do think what you’ve laid out represents the potential of achieving all of the major goals that the city laid out as we set down this process years ago:  hundreds of new homes, hundreds of jobs in the downtown, millions of dollars of additional public revenues to the city and the state, the restoration of the streets that were lost during urban renewal.  This represents again a step in the right direction towards fixing a part of the downtown that has long been problematic.”

Audio of the Burlington City Council meeting is courtesy of Channel 17 Town Meeting Television.

You can look at the updated plan presented to the City Council here.

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