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State Wants to Sell Downtown Burlington Office Building


Published January 24, 2023 at 12:31 p.m.

108 Cherry Street - COLIN FLANDERS ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Colin Flanders ©️ Seven Days
  • 108 Cherry Street
Gov. Phil Scott's administration wants to sell a sprawling state office building in downtown Burlington as part of an ongoing effort to consolidate government operations.

The potential sale of 108 Cherry Street, which requires legislative approval, would relocate hundreds of jobs within the Agency of Human Services, including the central offices of the Vermont Department of Health.

It would also offer developers a chance to snag some prime real estate in the heart of the Queen City. Located near the ongoing CityPlace Burlington development, the three-story, 110,000-square-foot office building and the land beneath it have been valued at $29 million by the city assessor's office.

The proposal comes as state office buildings across Vermont have been underutilized amid a pandemic-era embrace of hybrid working models, said Jennifer Fitch, commissioner of the Department of Buildings and General Services. Some 400 people used to work at 108 Cherry Street before COVID-19; now, only a fraction come into the office each day.

Meanwhile, Fitch said, AHS officials have long wanted to bring the health department offices down to the state complex in Waterbury, believing that it would foster a greater collaboration between its various departments.

"All of those considerations went into: 'Do we continue to invest in this building?'" Fitch said. "At the end of the day, this is really about stars aligning all at the same time."
It's not the first time the state has considered selling 108 Cherry Street. State officials have long been concerned about the building's underground parking garage, noting how decades of road salt and poor drainage have damaged the structure's concrete platforms.

A 2019 consultant report considered more than a dozen options for the property — including a potential sale — but ultimately recommended that the state spend roughly $12.5 million to repair the garage.

Factoring into that decision was the building's proximity to a dense population and the city's new downtown transit hub, which the consultants said made it "extraordinary well-positioned" to serve the public. Among the building's current occupants are Department for Children and Families staff who help people apply for public services such as food stamps and emergency housing.

AHS will maintain some local offices in the Burlington area in the event of any sale, agency spokesperson Rachel Feldman said, though the agency isn't yet sure where. As for the garage, Fitch said, the state will hold off on any major repairs until it knows whether it is selling the building.

"We’ll be doing our standard preventive maintenance," she said.

It could be months before any formal decision gets made. Scott pitched the sale in his annual capital budget request, which lawmakers typically don't sign off on until late in the session. The administration has also proposed selling 110 State Street in Montpelier, which currently houses the Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs.

If lawmakers do green-light the moves, then the state will have the buildings appraised, list them on the market and start accepting bids — a process that could take a year or more.

Anyone interested in owning the Burlington property will have to open their checkbook wide. Though she didn't say how much the state expects to fetch for the property, Fitch did note that downtown Burlington doesn't exactly have a lot of open land for sale.

In other words: The state knows what it's got.

"I think we’ll get some interested parties," Fitch said.