CityPlace Burlington Construction Could Begin in November | Development | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

News + Opinion » Development

CityPlace Burlington Construction Could Begin in November


Published October 17, 2022 at 11:55 p.m.

A rendering of CityPlace Burlington on Cherry Street - COURTESY OF FREEMAN FRENCH FREEMAN ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Courtesy of Freeman French Freeman ©️ Seven Days
  • A rendering of CityPlace Burlington on Cherry Street
The partners behind the long-stalled CityPlace Burlington project announced at a city council meeting on Monday that they hope to break ground in early November.

That's when the developers want to start laying the foundation for the south tower, which faces Bank Street. Construction would then continue clockwise around the plot, according to Dave Farrington, one of the project partners. The developers expect to "go vertical" by June or July of 2023, with the entire project, including a north tower, completed by November 2025.

"All I can say is, it's about time," Farrington said.

The news comes after years of stalled plans and construction delays on the project, which locals have nicknamed “the Pit.” In 2014, former owner Don Sinex pitched redeveloping the Burlington Town Center mall into 14-story towers. Sinex tore down the Burlington Town Center mall in 2017, but the site has since been empty, with little movement.

The project is now led by three local businessmen: Farrington of Farrington Construction, Al Senecal of Omega Electric Construction and Scott Ireland of S.D. Ireland. Their “phase one” plans for the site include two towers of about 10 stories that would hold some 430 total units of housing — including 85 affordable apartments — as well as 45,000 square feet of ground level retail space, 420 parking spaces, and a rooftop restaurant and observation deck.
In September, the developers submitted a request to use $275,000 in federal grant money to build an eight-story affordable housing project in partnership with Champlain Housing Trust.

"This is a unique and great opportunity to build affordable housing in downtown Burlington," Michael Monte, the trust's CEO, said at Monday's council meeting.

But first, long-standing lawsuits against the CityPlace project — including one brought by a citizen group — had to be resolved. That finally happened in recent weeks.

"We were handed a mess when we bought this thing," Farrington said.
From left: Dave Farrington, Al Senecal and Scott Ireland - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • From left: Dave Farrington, Al Senecal and Scott Ireland
Earlier on Monday, the developers submitted a building permit application for the project's foundation, according to Farrington. But before they can begin construction, the council must review and amend the development agreement that's currently in place between the city and the developers. That deal was made when Sinex was still in the picture and reflects old dates and deadlines, some of which have passed.

The city has long demanded that the project include restoration of sections of Pine and St. Paul streets that were severed when the mall was built in the 1960s. The development agreement says the builders will construct the streets and the city will reimburse them with $21.8 million in tax increment financing dollars, a funding plan that voters approved in November 2016. The debt would be repaid with the additional tax revenue generated by the project itself.

The council discussed the agreement in executive session on Monday for about an hour and fifteen minutes before coming back into open session without taking further action. But the mood at the meeting was celebratory, and several councilors, as well as Mayor Miro Weinberger, congratulated the developer team on making significant progress on getting the project underway.
Later in the meeting, the city council approved a route for the Railyard Enterprise Project, which, once built in the next several years, will connect Pine and Battery streets. The route would leave Pine Street near Kilburn Street, then cut through property owned by Vermont Rail System, Curtis Lumber and the Independent Block — a building where the Seven Days office is located — before joining Battery at Maple Street.

The approved route is the least expensive of three options the council considered. It's expected to ease an influx of traffic the city anticipates will come through the Pine Street corridor once the Champlain Parkway is built. Construction on that road has already begun, though its completion is still years away.
First proposed in 2021, the Railyard Enterprise Project would provide motorists with a more direct route to downtown Burlington and the waterfront. The project could reduce traffic in the area by as much as 59 percent, according to a study in August 2020 by the consulting firm Resource Systems Group.

But during public comment, Nick Cavanaugh, co-owner of Railyard Apothecary — which is located in Independent Block — voiced his opposition to the route, citing the financial difficulty he would face if he had to move his business. An unknown portion of the Independent Block building would likely need to be demolished to clear the way for the road.

With a green light from the city council, the proposed route will undergo an environmental assessment by the Federal Highway Administration, with denial or approval likely announced in early 2023.