That was the message from a representative of real estate firm Brookfield Asset Management who sat before the Burlington City Council Tuesday to allay concerns about the stalled 14-story project.
"We want to assure the community that the plans for CityPlace Burlington are moving forward," the company's vice president of development Chase Martin told the council. "Right now, all focus is getting this project up and running." Construction is expected to begin this spring, he added.
It was the first time a representative from the international financier and majority owner of the project appeared before the council. Since August, the massive site just blocks away from City Hall has been idle after a series of construction hold-ups and unfulfilled promises.
Sinex, who has been the face of the project and whose firm, Devonwood Investors, holds a 49-percent stake in the project, was conspicuously absent at Tuesday's meeting. Devonwood remains a partner, according to Martin.
But it appears Brookfield Asset Management is taking a more active role in overseeing the project. The group is now "fully engaged" in day-to-day operations, according to Martin. He declined to say publicly which entity is the project's managing partner.
Martin also confirmed that the blueprint would not be altered and that the University of Vermont Medical Center remains committed as an anchor tenant. The hospital has leased more than 100,000 square feet of space in the new building.
"We think the plan is appropriate; it’s the perfect project for this market," Martin said. "The project of this size, scale and magnitude is exactly what Burlington really needs."
Councilors told Martin of concerns about the project they'd heard from residents. Members of the council emphasized the need for greater communication going forward. Martin vowed to do better, saying the council could expect "regular updates" from Brookfield. "All we can do is start with today," he said.
Councilors later went into executive session to discuss the project with Martin and other representatives from Brookfield Asset Management.
After the meeting, Mayor Miro Weinberger said he considered Brookfield's public statement "an encouraging sign" for the future of the project."What I sense from Chase Martin is a willingness to under-commit and over-deliver," the mayor said.
Though the relationship between Sinex and Brookfield appears to be evolving, Weinberger said he wasn't concerned about who does what. "What's important to me is the project gets built," he said.