Sailing Center Sends Out SOS for Funding | Off Message

Sailing Center Sends Out SOS for Funding


Work continued on the new  building Tuesday. - MATTHEW ROY
  • Matthew Roy
  • Work continued on the new building Tuesday.
Construction workers are busy putting the final touches on the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center's new building. But the project on the Burlington waterfront hit rough water earlier this month.

On September 15, the Center issued an SOS for donations to help cover a $1.7 million funding gap for the nearly complete, 22,180-square-foot building. It's located a five-minute walk north of the center's current dilapidated digs, next to the shuttered Moran Plant.

The shortfall is the result of an "unforeseen and unpredictable wrinkle,"
the center's executive director, Owen Milne, and board chair Karen Marshall wrote in the letter to donors and community supporters.

Specifically, the center had banked on equity from New Market Tax Credits to fund the final construction payment of $1.7 million. Its leaders believed the new building at 505 Lake Street fell in a qualifying U.S. Census tract for the federal program, according to the letter.

An online map based on the building address showed it within the tract, but it turned out that the building is actually just outside it.

"This is an abrupt development and change to our strategy to complete project funding," the letter states.

Milne said that several donations have come in since the letter went out. The shortfall is not jeopardizing the final construction of the building, he said.

"At the sailing center we teach people how to be resilient and how to change course when something happens out there on the water," Milne said. The loss of the tax credits "was unfortunate news but we didn’t miss a step and have shifted our strategy."

Milne is also contending with some rather stressful party planning. The center is to host a 100th birthday celebration for philanthropist Tony Pomerleau at the new building, called the Community Waterfront Campus & Sailing Education Center.
Construction fencing around the nearly complete building - MATTHEW ROY
  • Matthew Roy
  • Construction fencing around the nearly complete building
Gov. Phil Scott is on the guest list. So is Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger.

But construction delays mean the building won't qualify yet for permanent certificate of occupancy, Milne said. So he applied for a temporary certificate.

As of Tuesday at 1 p.m., the certificate had not been granted because the center needs to meet fire safety requirements, even for a temporary certificate, said Norm Baldwin, Burlington city engineer. Baldwin added that city building inspectors were working with the center to see if they can help resolve the questions.

Milne said Monday he was confident the permits would fall into place in time for the big event.

"Tony's 100th birthday is not one of those ones where we can move the date and we are very thankful for his financial support," Milne said. "So we will do everything in our power to accommodate him and his family for that."

Pomerleau donated $1 million toward the project last year.

The new building - MATTHEW ROY
  • Matthew Roy
  • The new building