South Burlington to Vote on Project to Anchor a New Downtown | Off Message

South Burlington to Vote on Project to Anchor a New Downtown


Rendering of proposed South Burlington community building - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Rendering of proposed South Burlington community building
South Burlington residents who go to the polls November 6 will face a $21.8 million question. That's the tab for a proposed building that would house a new city hall, public library and senior center.

The long-discussed project would help anchor the suburb's hoped-for downtown, known as City Center. The building would be constructed at 180 Market Street, a short walk from the Blue Mall on Dorset Street, and across from Rick Marcotte Central School.

Approval could build momentum to create a pedestrian-oriented downtown in the suburban community. So far, the envisioned $300 million mix of housing, retail and office space has stayed mostly on the drawing board.

The community building renderings depict a three-story structure with an auditorium, meeting rooms, library, activity rooms for seniors, and office space for planning, zoning and the city clerk.

The new structure would replace the cramped municipal building at 575 Dorset Street and provide South Burlington's public library a permanent home. City officials moved the library temporarily to the University Mall last year after it outgrew its shared space with the South Burlington High School library.

If voters approve, construction of the community building would begin next spring, with completion expected in 2020. Much of the project would be financed with revenue from a city property tax that funnels money to a City Center reserve fund.

Other funds would come from tax increment financing. A portion of tax revenue from new housing, office and retail development at City Center would be used to pay off the structure. Voters have already authorized such funding for the reconstruction of Market Street and for park improvements in the downtown area.

Property taxes would not be affected, according to city handouts about the project. City forecasts assume private development will generate new tax revenue. If the actual tax revenue is lower than forecast, though, the city and its taxpayers would still be on the hook.

The city would allow the South Burlington School District to lease the existing municipal building at 575 Dorset Street and buy it after three years for a nominal fee.

Four articles on the ballot are related to the new City Hall project financing and related property easements.