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Burlington Officials Celebrate Beginning Of Moran Plant Transformation

A long-decommissioned power generating station on the Burlington, Vermont waterfront is finally moving toward a new use.  City officials held a reverse groundbreaking Wednesday to celebrate deconstruction of most of the building to create what will be called the Moran Frame.
The Moran Plant opened in 1954 as a 30 megawatt coal-fired power plant.  In 1977 it was converted to instead burn woodchips. In 1986 the Moran Plant was decommissioned and the building has remained unused since. For over 30 years plans to reuse the building have been proposed ranging from an arts complex to demolition.  But costs and environmental remediation made most proposals impractical.  Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger on Wednesday stood in front of the building to officially mark a  new plan for the site.  “This has always been a complicated site to reimagine.  Today though we are here because for 30 years the Burlington community has been dreaming and imagining great uses of this unique purpose-built structure. And today we have found a way to achieve many of the city’s long held goals for this site. At long last we are celebrating the groundbreaking of construction to turn the former Moran Municipal Generating Station into the Moran Frame.”

Peter Clavelle served as mayor of Burlington from 1989 to 1993 and again from 1995 to 2006.  He remembers that 40 years ago the waterfront was what he called a “wasteland” with junkyards, abandoned rail lines, sewage treatment facilities and oil tanks.  All of that is now gone and the public has access to parks and the lake.   “One of the most elusive elements of the waterfront revitalization strategy over these years has been this beast. For decades we have debated what to do with this derelict property. And today we have a reuse of this property which includes a plan that is broadly supported by the public. We have a cleanup of a polluted property that has taken place. We have enhanced public access to the lake. And we are preserving an historical artifact, a reminder of Burlington’s industrial waterfront past. It’s been a long time coming but I think it’s going to be a real asset to our community.”

The project calls for the building to be deconstructed to its steel frame and reinforced.  The bright red frame would then provide in future phases a base for amenities such as water edge paths and viewing decks.   Burlington City Arts Director Doreen Kraft says there is incredible potential for use of the frame as a backdrop for the arts.  “Moran will become a frame for the interactive arts, for dance, for theatre, for performance, for light and sound spectacles, for so much more. There is so much potential here. Remember we were going to tear it down. We were going to lose those five stories, the highest structure on the waterfront, and never be able to get that high again. From the top of there, and I have been on top, you can see all the way up the lake and all the way down. It is the best view in Burlington.”

While there were shovels at the ready, Mayor Weinberger said a normal groundbreaking for the Moran Frame didn’t seem quite appropriate.  “We struggled a little bit with the right way to do it in this particular project. We thought about using sledgehammers or something but that too doesn’t seem quite right. Here’s what we’ve come up with. We have some bricks actually from the building that you all are invited to take home with you. It says Moran Frame and it has this iconic outline of the building that will soon be permanently revealed here on the shores of Lake Champlain.”

In February the Burlington City Council approved Phase One of the Moran Frame project. The $6.55 million project will be paid for by voter authorized TIF, or Tax Increment Financing, funds.   Phase One should be complete in about a year.


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