The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum has withdrawn its plans to develop a shipwreck center as part of Burlington's ambitious effort to redevelop the former Moran electric generating station on the city waterfront.
The news came late Monday and drew a swift response from Mayor Bob Kiss.
"While I'm disappointed that the Maritime Museum has decided to withdraw from the Moran Project, the city’s financial plan has been structured to allow for this possibility," said Kiss."The redevelopment of Moran continues to be an exciting opportunity for Burlington's Waterfront and the city’s future."
This is the second time a local nonprofit has bailed on its plans to become one of three tenants at the site. The other two anchor tenants are Ice Factor, a Scottish-based company that wants to create an indoor, family adventure center, and the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center. The Vermont Children's Museum was originally part of the three anchor tenants, but withdrew about one year ago.
The city sought plans from a variety of groups after the children's museum withdrew, and that yielded several possible tenants. Those tenants were then reviewed by a group of councilors and citizens.
Earlier this year, the city chose LCMM to occupy 7000 square feet of the former generating plant.
"The city of Burlington has done an outstanding job putting together a sound plan for redeveloping the Moran site, but the Maritime Museum has significant concerns about our ability to raise sufficient funds to participate in the project and the long-term financial sustainability of a future Moran maritime museum site. We felt our continued participation in the project, given our funding concerns, was not helpful to the city in meeting their overall goal of redeveloping the Moran site,” said Art Cohn, executive director of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.
LCMM continues to support the Moran Redevelopment Project. "We expect that the City will have little difficultly filling our space given the appeal of the location.” said LCMM Board Chairman Sandy Jacobs.
Cohn said despite the support of the city, and its elected leaders, they just couldn't make it work.
"Although we won’t be a tenant at Moran, we are looking forward to a continued presence on the waterfront with our fleet of rowing gigs and the schooner Lois McClure at Perkins Pier,” added Cohn.
Jamie Smith, a partner in Ice Factor, said the news came as no surprise given the economic climate.
"The news today was unfortunate, but no great surprise. The current macro economic climate makes any new development significantly more challenging than it was three years ago," said Smith. "We understand the pressures this would bring to bear on a non-profit and understand their reasons for stepping back at this time. We wish them well."
Smith said the news doesn't deter his group's efforts at all. In fact, he said Ice Factor International recently raised $1.6 million to help fund the adventure center, and Smith and others matched that funding.
"Ice Factor’s proposal has always been predicated on providing a major family and social hub. Ice Factor is a unique cultural and social destination. There are a range of activities. Some extreme — ice climbing, caving, bungee, aerial adventure and rock climbing — others more sedentary from laser tag in the basement, to winter skating and festive ice park. But the crucial elements have always been about creating a holistic gathering point for the community and visitor market," said Smith. "The family activity center will be supported by gourmet coffee shop, bistro, retail concession and restaurant overlooking the amazing lake front views."
The $1.6 million came in the form of an equity investment funding round that helped create Ice Factor International, a company focused on identifying and developing new Ice Factor centers, Smith said.
"A consortium consisting of myself and Highland Venture Capital secured match funding from Scottish Co-Investment Fund. We also secured the backing of HSBC bank who will provide the finance to support the equity," Smith said.