Don Sinex, Mayor Miro Weinberger and Gov. Peter Shumlin
The new owners of Burlington Town Center announced a plan Thursday afternoon to invest $200 million in a dramatic redevelopment of the downtown mall.
Standing in front of its recently opened L.L.Bean store, Devonwood Investors managing partner Don Sinex outlined a sweeping vision for the aging shopping center. It would include a vast expansion of the mall's retail and office space, 250 new apartments, a hotel and convention center, an underground parking garage and a rooftop park.
"I think this is a big day for Burlington and Burlington Town Center," Sinex said. "This mall has captured my energy and all my passion."
Sinex was joined at the announcement by dozens of business and community leaders, several of whom praised what they said would be a "public-private partnership" between Devonwood Investors and the city's residents.
Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce president Tom Torti speaks with Mayor Miro Weinberger
Mayor Miro Weinberger, who has been negotiating the terms of that partnership with Sinex and his fellow investors, said he was particularly pleased that it would address the "lack of connectivity" between the mall's neighboring streets and stores. A preliminary schematic envisions reconnecting Pine Street and St. Paul Street — both of which are currently cut off from one another by the mall — with a pedestrian walkway. A new "Burlington Arcade" would connect Church Street to Pine Street.
Weinberger said the vision conforms to the city's PlanBTV development concept and could draw down city and state funding for related infrastructure improvements. He and Sinex pledged that, with the city council's approval in December, Devonwood would engage in a "transparent, public process" to reach a development agreement that takes citizen input into consideration.
Sinex said he believed construction could be completed in three to five years.
Artist renderings of Burlington Town Center's planned redevelopment
Though the project's details remain fluid, it has already garnered support from a variety of community organizations. AARP Vermont director of outreach Kelly Stoddard Poor said that the 250 new apartments planned for the development would help Burlington residents "age in place" in the heart of the city.
Local Motion executive director Emily Boedecker said the project would help Burlington become even more of a "walking and biking destination" where "people want to get out of their cars."
Several speakers politely alluded to the mall's dated, drab appearance and its "inward-facing" stores.
"The mall has served us well, but I think we can all agree it's time to look to the future," said Burlington Business Association executive director Kelly Devine.
Courtesy: Devonwood Investors, LLC
A concept diagram of Burlington Town Center's planned redevelopment
Sinex, who bought the property with several partners for $25 million last December, said he hoped to include much of the following in the redevelopment:
225,000 additional square feet of retail (It currently includes 125,000 square feet.)
150,000 additional square feet of office space (It currently includes 35,000.)
250 new apartments
A "convention center-style hotel" with 250 rooms and 40,000 square feet of meeting space
A potential winter home for the Burlington Farmers Market
A rooftop public park
A new underground parking garage with roughly 350 additional parking spaces (It currently includes 575).
In praising PlanBTV and the city's vision for improving its downtown and waterfront spaces, Sinex said, "Here is a city that gets it."