BURLINGTON — CityPlace Burlington construction will start in August 2020 and be completed in 2023, according to a new timeline proposed by developer Brookfield Asset Management.
The redesigned 10-story project will cost $120 million, far less than the initial $220 million 14-story project. The company initially unveiled the plan at a City Council meeting last month and released new details in documents provided to the city for the Monday evening Board of Finance meeting.
The prominent site in downtown Burlington has been idle since August 2018, as the developer struggled to secure financing. The project missed construction restart deadlines before Brookfield announced this summer it would be redesigning and scaling down the project.
The project as designed was “not viable from a cost perspective,” according to a Brookfield memo to Mayor Miro Weinberger, as material costs rose 20% from the fall of 2018 to the spring of 2019.
The new design will include 29 more housing units than the previous plan, from 289 to 318, as well as a 174-room hotel and four levels of parking with a total of 534 spaces.
Overall, the square footage of the design was reduced by slightly more than a quarter.
“The amended design seeks to reduce costs and better address current market demand in Burlington in several ways,” Brookfield’s memo states. Among the cuts were an office block, a second level of retail space and a “simplified … parking structure.”
The north tower of the development will be residential and the south tower will be the hotel, according to the documents. The project will include 121 studio apartments, 142 one-bedroom apartments and 55 two-bedroom apartments.
Brookfield will have to modify its zoning permit and may have to file for an amended Act 250 permit as the new design will include the hotel.
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“We believe that the inclusion of the hotel component is responsive to market demand and can contribute to the continued dynamism of downtown Burlington,” Brookfield said in its memo.
The design documents showed the plan for the current empty lot where the mall used to stand. The documents do not include the plan for the old Macy’s building, which the developers also own and are planning to redesign as office and retail space.
Voters approved in 2016 nearly $22 million in TIF funding for public improvements, primarily to reconnect Pine and St. Paul streets through the site and pay for improvements on Bank and Cherry streets.
The tax increment financing is estimated to be $3 million less with the smaller project than it would have been under the original proposal. The city hopes to find additional revenue to cover the gap between the $19 million estimate and around $22 million approved by voters.
The deadline for the city to incur debt for the TIF bonding is June 30, 2021. Under its new schedule, Brookfield will not be able to meet the terms of the development agreement which requires that public improvements be completed before the city starts incurring debt on the TIF funding.
Brookfield has committed to financing the debt the city will incur from the June 2021 deadline until the public improvements are completed. This will enable the city to proceed without having to ask the Legislature for an extension.
The Board of Finance voted unanimously Monday to approve an amendment to the Waterfront TIF district and recommended the council do the same. The Vermont Economic Progress Council, which regulates TIF funding, will discuss the project at a Dec. 19 meeting.
Weinberger said the city wants to be transparent with the Vermont Economic Progress Council about the scope and timeline of the public improvements.
St. Albans found itself in hot water with Auditor Doug Hoffer earlier this year after Hoffer asserted the city owed money to the state’s education fund after mismanaging its TIF program. VPEC cleared the city’s leadership.
Weinberger said is optimistic the city will able to use the TIF funding.
“The application itself, with all of the new materials and information from Brookfield, is an indication that they are continuing to get his project back on the rails,” he said.
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