Burlington International Airport has a yoga studio, locally sourced food and plenty of maple syrup — along with all those planes. Now the place might get a hotel, too.
Director of aviation Gene Richards says he plans to issue a request soon for proposals on a 110-room hotel. The building would likely be constructed over the airport’s southern parking garage, adding two more stories to the three-deck garage.
The project has already attracted the attention of developers, who would lease the space and bear the costs of constructing and running the hotel. The doors wouldn’t open before 2018, Richards said. He declined to say which companies are interested or who might be leading the charge. “It’s just in the beginning stages," he said. "You don’t know 'til you know.”
The hotel would employ as much soundproofing in the walls and windows as possible, Richards said, to reduce the possibility that guests will be bothered by air traffic. That traffic includes the roar of the F-16 fighter jets now flying out of BTV, or the louder F-35s that are slated to come despite local protest about the new military planes.
Speaking of airport noise, the long-planned demolition of 94 empty houses surrounding the airport in South Burlington is set to begin April 15. The airport has been buying up the houses for years under a voluntary federal program designed to help neighbors escape airport noise.
Residents who haven’t sold are being told at public meetings to expect an armada of trucks hauling out debris and hauling in fill for cellar holes. The first phase of the housing removal program in the Chamberlin neighborhood will take down 37 homes. Plans call for the rest to come down by fall. The wrecking ball will swing on Airport Drive, Airport Parkway, Delaware Street, Dumont Avenue and other streets.
A house set to be demolished near Burlington International Airport
Though no one was forced to sell, the program has been controversial, partly because it eliminates a chunk of affordable housing stock in Chittenden County, where rents and home prices are higher than in much of the state. Most of the homes set to be razed are modest capes or ranches from the 1950s and 1960s.
Sensitive to concerns about affordable housing, Richards spent $10,000 on advertising trying to sell or practically give the houses away to anyone who would haul them off to new lots. There were no takers, even though he placed ads in rural towns with cheaper land that he thought would make the move more feasible.
“You could have come and picked up a house for $1,000,” Richards said.
A few calls came in, but after people added up the costs of moving the house, putting in a new foundation, and in some cases new electrical and mechanical systems, their enthusiasm waned. In the end, nobody stepped up. “Zero,” Richards said. “It was very discouraging.”
The demolition project must comply with Vermont's new construction recycling law, Act 175, which kicked in on contracts starting January 1. The law applies to commercial or residential projects of more than two units that generate 40 yards or more of waste created by materials including asphalt shingles, drywall, clean wood, plywood and scrap metal.
The law is designed to keep still-useful construction material out of landfills, said Michele Morris, business outreach coordinator for the Chittenden Solid Waste District. "Once you bury it in a hole in the ground and cover it up, you're not getting any more use out of those materials," she said.
Roof plywood sheathing, roof trusses, wood and asphalt shingles, and other materials will be recycled, according to Stantec Consulting Services, the company overseeing the demolition.
Morris said that for now, all indications are that Stantec and airport officials are aware of Act 175 requirements and are making plans to be in compliance. The scale of the demolition makes for an interesting test case of how the new law will work.
"It's an unprecedented type of project," Morris said. "There are a lot of unknowns."