Business & Economy

Burlington Town Center settles with opponents

Town Center
An image from the latest design proposal shows the planned first phase of the Burlington Town Center project from the corner of Cherry and St. Paul streets.

The developer of a downtown mall in Burlington reached an agreement with opponents on Wednesday.

In the settlement, Burlington Town Center has agreed to provide additional parking. The land for two planned city streets will be donated to the city and the developer will not provide a housing lease to Champlain College or other universities.

A second phase of the project, which has not yet been proposed, may not exceed 10 stories. The first phase of the mall will be 14 stories — the tallest building in the city.

Former Mayor Peter Clavelle helped the two parties negotiate the deal.

Opponents represented by attorney John Franco had mounted several legal challenges to the project, in which they argued it was too big for downtown Burlington. Two weeks ago, a judge threw out a complaint about the overall size of the 600,000-square-foot mall complex, which includes housing, and retail and office spaces. The project includes 120,000 square feet of retail space, an underground parking garage and 273 housing units.

Franco said in an interview that the agreement is “a good compromise for all parties and is in the city’s best interests.” He said the deal is significant given the “headwinds” opponents faced because of the amount of money that is involved and the overwhelming support from city and state officials.

“Both sides were concerned about what we’re dealing with here — a reinvention of the urban renewal area,” Franco said. “The downtown is fragile. The question was scale and impact, not that redevelopment wasn’t going to happen.”

Don Sinex, the developer, said in a statement that he “appreciated that the residents who brought legal challenges against the project agreed to sit down and work out our differences.”

“I think this settlement is the right balance for all of us – the parties, the project, and the city as a whole,” Sinex said.

Mayor Miro Weinberger has been a proponent of the Burlington Town Center. The city supported the developer in opposing legal challenges brought by residents.

Weinberger says the settlement removes “the last major hurdle in this public-private redevelopment effort that will address so many of the city’s critical challenges by creating new jobs, new housing, and new municipal revenues. I look forward to working with the City Council to review this settlement agreement and complete the City’s final development agreement with Devonwood.”

The terms include:

  • 200 additional public parking spaces for Phase 1 of the project. The plan originally included 761 private parking spaces. The Cherry Street garage, which is for public parking and has roughly 500 spaces, will be razed. Opponents did not believe the new garage would have enough public parking.
  • Another 250 parking spaces for Phase 2.
  • Establishment of a $500,000 charitable fund to be managed by the Vermont Community Foundation for grants to small businesses, local arts and culture organizations, cultural centers and public spaces.

Franco says the charitable fund is a mitigation payment for the cumulative impact on the downtown.

The settlement must be approved by the Environmental Court.

Correction: The Cherry Street has about 500 parking spaces — not 1,500 as originally reported.
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Anne Galloway

About Anne

Anne Galloway is the founder and editor of VTDigger.org and the executive director of the Vermont Journalism Trust. She has been a journalist for 20 years. Galloway was the editor of the Sunday Rutland Herald and Times Argus from 2006 through 2009. For many years, she was a contributing writer for Seven Days, and her reporting has appeared in The New York Times (Vows column), the New York Daily News, Vermont Life and City Pages (Minneapolis). In March 2017, she was a finalist for the Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism for her investigation into allegations of fraud at Jay Peak Resort. Galloway was also a finalist for the Investigative Reporters & Editors FOI Award in April 2017.

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  • Maggie Standley

    Way to go! And how bout more housing accessible to people who earn lower incomes?

    • DougHoffer

      Burlington’s inclusionary zoning ordinance requires that 15 percent of all units in new projects be affordable (more for projects near the Waterfront).

  • Morgan Rye

    Burlington is already a parking nightmare. This will exacerbate the problem.

    • robert bristow-johnson

      where?? i’ve always found a spot in the parking garage, which is free for 2 hours.

      if i want to have downtown or lakefront access for more than 2 hours, i have always been able to find a spot on Park St. or Champlain St. north of Sherman. park there for free all day.

      my only complaint about parking is sometimes what they’ve done regarding snow emergencies.

  • William Barrett

    The settlement is nice ,but frankly its the result of legal extortion.

    • Anthony Redington

      Really bribery of the Mayor and Council by Wall Street equity investors. The money is out there for all to see.

  • carolyn bates

    Thank you all for digging in hard, and getting some compromises in place. Especially only 10 stories from now on! And parking finally in the basement, where it ALL should be. And no school occupation, and some money for the arts.