Rendering of Burlington Town Center as seen from Cherry and St. Paul streets
The proposal to rebuild the Burlington Town Center cleared its final major hurdle Monday when the city's Development Review Board granted approval to Don Sinex's multi-use project.
The board voted unanimously, with one recusal, to grant the zoning permit as Sinex's development team and onlookers lined the walls of a cramped meeting room in Burlington City Hall.
The DRB decision came after three lengthy public hearings and two deliberative hearings on the design minutia of the project, involving building materials, construction schedules, awnings and even the varieties of trees to be planted.
Sinex said the final product represents a series of revisions and improvements. "We've gone through a long, exhaustive, collaborative process," he told reporters after the meeting.
The project still needs a limited number of additional permits, including electrical and plumbing permits from the city Department of Public Works. The zoning permit, however, marks a "big step toward breaking ground," said Scott Gustin, Burlington's principal planner for development review.
Sinex hopes to begin construction as early as mid-June. The $250 million redevelopment will include 272 new apartments, office and retail space, and will restore two previously closed blocks of Pine and St. Paul streets. If all goes as planned, the project will be completed by the fall of 2019.
The DRB vote marked the final step in a three-part review process for the development. It already got approval from the Conservation Board and the Design Advisory Board. In November, Burlington residents approved two mall-related ballot measures.
Still, it's not yet smooth sailing for Sinex. Just weeks after the election, the mall opposition group Coalition for a Livable City filed a suit against the city seeking to revoke the November results. They claim the ballot measure that granted $21.8 million in tax increment financing for Sinex was inaccurately presented to voters. The administration of Mayor Miro Weinberger and Sinex filed a response, seeking a dismissal of the suit.
On Monday, Sinex said the pending litigation would not delay construction —though, he added, "We'll take it as it comes."
Members of the DRB voiced some concerns about the impact of construction on local business in their deliberations last week.
Regardless of the board's final ruling, said board member Ali Zipparo, some restaurants and businesses will suffer from the increased noise and truck traffic. "There's no hand we can apply heavy enough to make this mess go away," she said.
But other DRB members praised the project. "Our discussion is on nitpicky little things," said board chair Austin Hart. "I think that's the result of the work that was done before it got to us," he added, pointing out the multiple revisions by Sinex's architecture and design team.
It was a lengthy process, acknowledged Gustin, noting that it was "a little unusual in that it took three hearings." But then again, he added, "It was a really big project."