Burlington’s Moran Plant is popping up from the dead, but its resurrection will be short-lived.
The 60-year-old power plant, which went offline in 1986, will be the site on Saturday of a set of city-sponsored events intended to renew local interest in the decrepit waterfront structure and its surroundings. The “Popup Moran” happenings are set to start soon after Penguin Plungers emerge from the lake around 11:30 a.m. Lit by a bonfire, the fun continues till 10 at night.
“We want to bring energy and life to that part of the waterfront,” explains popup coordinator Diana Colangelo, who works for the city’s Community and Economic Development Office. “In a lot of people’s minds, the waterfront sort of ends at the Coast Guard station. We want people to feel invested in Moran.”
Does that mean the Weinberger administration is formally advocating rehabbing the building rather than, say, tearing it down? Not necessarily, Colangelo responds.
From the city’s perspective, she notes, the day’s entertainments are meant mainly to highlight the $10 million worth of infrastructure investments planned for the Waterfront Access North area. That initiative involves construction of a skate park adjacent to Moran, remediation of the arsenic-laced soil where the plant’s coal pile once sat, installation of a stormwater system, burial of utility lines and the addition of 125 parking spaces as well as walkways, trees and lighting.
The fate of Moran itself, which has been debated ever since its shutdown 27 years ago, will be decided through a public-comment and proposal-review process now underway.
The big come-on is that popup participants can get a rare glimpse of Moran’s cavernous innards. The building’s front doors are to be thrown open to reveal a light show created by Vermont artist Samuel Millett as well as a series of projected images of Moran during its era as the supplier of Burlington’s electrical power.
But no one will be permitted to venture more than a few feet inside the decrepit plant, Colangelo notes. Piles of pigeon droppings have been removed and some cosmetics have been applied, but safety remains a concern in the unmaintained 44,000-square-foot structure, she says.
Saturday’s temps are expected to be chilly enough to permit ice skating on an outdoor rink alongside the existing skateboard park. Plenty of food and (non-alcoholic) drink will be available for sale from the Tomgirl Juice Co., Muchacho Taco, and Little Pockets of Love, a purveyor of pierogis.
Colangelo says she’s unable to specify the cost of Popup Moran, which is also being organized by Burlington City Arts and the Parks and Recreation Department, with sponsorship by Union Street Media. “But it’s not a lot,” Colangelo adds. “It’s a very guerrilla-style thing. We’ve been doing as much of it for free as possible.”
Will revelers still respect Moran the morning after? Its old face will be back in place then, so maybe the fling will have been flung.