Weinberger Unswayed by New CityPlace Burlington Partnership | Off Message

Weinberger Unswayed by New CityPlace Burlington Partnership


  • File: Matthew Thorsen ©️ Seven Days
  • Don Sinex
The City of Burlington continues to have "deep and legitimate concerns" about the downtown CityPlace Burlington site, despite developer Don Sinex's assurances that a new partnership will help get the project done.

Sinex announced, in a Burlington Free Press story posted online Friday morning, that he has "a binding agreement" to buy out the majority partners on the project, Brookfield Asset Management. The deal should be finalized within 30 days, subject to "normal closing conditions," Sinex told the paper.

In Brookfield's place, Sinex said he has formed a new partnership with three local businessmen: Scott Ireland of SD Ireland, Dave Farrington of Farrington Construction and Al Senecal of Omega Electric Construction. None of the partners, nor Sinex, immediately responded to requests for comment.

Yet the announcement drew a sharp rebuke from Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, who said in a statement Friday afternoon that Sinex and his firm, Devonwood Investors, have not provided the city "the basic project information that any financial partner would require when contemplating a new agreement."

The partner swap comes after Brookfield informed the city last month that it intended to hand the project over to Sinex, who first dreamed up the development project in 2014. The decision prompted Weinberger to issue Brookfield a letter of default for violating a development agreement and failing to deliver the project as promised. The mayor has threatened litigation if Brookfield doesn't take action, but he has not yet followed through.
“Instead of addressing the City’s deep and legitimate concerns, Devonwood is asking for the City to drop our claims against Brookfield and the developers — claims potentially worth many millions of dollars to the people of Burlington — to commit to a new development agreement with Devonwood now, and to save our questions for later," Weinberger wrote in Friday's statement.

“That approach is not going to work," he continued. "Brookfield and Devonwood must propose a more reasonable and responsible path forward if they wish to avoid litigation.”

Weinberger said that while he respects Sinex's new partners, the group has "provided no evidence that they will be able to produce better results" than Sinex has over the last six years.

Weinberger said in late July that he didn't trust Sinex and would only give Brookfield "a short window of time" to prove its commitment to the project before the city files suit. The mayor discussed his legal strategy with city councilors in executive session on Monday but has not publicly committed to a timeline for deciding whether to go to court.

Weinberger's spokesperson, Olivia LaVecchia, did not respond to follow-up questions from Seven Days on the matter.

The Free Press reported that Sinex's plans will mirror those that Brookfield presented at community forums earlier this year. Those concepts showed a scaled-down design with buildings topping out at 10 stories instead of the original 14. Plans included more than 300 housing units and a hotel, the latter of which Sinex said would not be included in his latest proposal.
While the Free Press story was news to the public, it wasn't to the city. Sinex had already informed officials that his buyout was in motion, according to Jeff Glassberg, a consultant and liaison between the parties. Glassberg said the city didn't earlier disclose Sinex's new partnership proposal "because those parties had asked that their identity not be made public yet."

Glassberg added that the city had no way to independently verify Sinex's news.

"Other things I've been told have not proven true," he said.