Business & Economy

Burlington pulls plug on Moran development, mulls demolition

MoranPlant Cooke Crockenberg
Tad Cooke, left, and Erick Crockenberg of New Moran. VTDigger photo by Phoebe Sheehan.

BURLINGTON — The city has concluded talks with a nonprofit that had hoped to redevelop the former Moran coal plant on the Burlington waterfront, and announced Friday that it’s exploring options to demolish the historic structure.

New Moran, Inc., had pitched a mixed-use project for the terraced brick structure, but the city terminated an agreement with the company in July 2016 due to concerns about the project’s feasibility.

The two sides, however, continued negotiating and the New Moran team presented a scaled-back version of the project to the City Council in January that cut the price tag in half — from more than $30 million down to $15 million.

Still, the city and developers failed to reach an agreement on a long-term lease of the property and the use of tax increment financing to support the project, which was expected to include an event space, vendors and provide a new home for the winter’s farmers market.

“We worked hard with the New Moran team, who brought focus, commitment, and every capacity they could to bear on this challenge, but ultimately we could not find a way forward that adequately protected the city from financial risk,” Mayor Miro Weinberger said in a statement.

Now city officials say they are exploring their options for leveling the former coal burning plant, which closed in the mid 1980’s.

In 2014, city voters approved $9.6 million in tax increment financing for waterfront development, with $6.3 million slated for the Moran project. The other projects are either completed — including the skate park — or well on their way, such as the nearly finished sailing center, or salted to begin soon. Construction of new marina is expected to begin in the fall.
The $6.3 million in tax breaks slated for Moran can be put toward demolition, according to city officials. The measure voters approved in 2014 says that if the mayor and the City Council determine the project “cannot reasonably be accomplished,” then the tax breaks can be put toward demolition costs.

The city released an 87-page report on the cost and challenges of demolishing the former industrial site, which remains a potential source of contamination.

That report concludes that demolition will cost between $3 and $10 million depending on how much of the foundation is removed.

The Community and Economic Development Office is working on coming up with a “site restoration plan” for the city-owned property that will take into consideration land use and environmental regulations as well as the planned future use of the site.

City officials said they will decide what’s going to replace the existing structure before knocking it down to manage costs.

Developing a restoration plan is expected to take at least a year, according to a news release from the city, which says CEDO hopes to complete the plan by the fall of 2018.

Tad Cooke, a co-founder of New Moran, expressed gratitude for the community support the project generated and disappointment that they couldn’t reach a deal with Burlington officials.

“Our team came together around the vision of a redeveloped Moran Plant and the vibrant year-round energy it would create on the waterfront,” Cooke said in a statement, “Our work since has been possible thanks to the tremendous generosity of a top-notch professional team, diverse partners, selfless volunteers and hundreds of charitable supporters. Together, we built a once in a generation opportunity for Burlington – and we are deeply disappointed we could not reach common ground with the city.”

As of January, when group presented to the City Council, New Moran said it had raised $4 million in private donations to support the project. It’s unclear how much of that money remains or what the nonprofit will do with it now.

Calls to Cook and the other developers, Erick Crockenberg and Charlie Tipper, were not returned Friday. In a news release, the city said the developers would not be available until after Labor Day.

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