Vt.'s Largest City Experiencing Building Boom

A number of large construction or redevelopment projects are now underway

Vermont’s largest city appears to be experiencing a building boom, with significant improvements or additions now underway on both public and private property.

“It is very exciting,” Nina Safavi, the interim director of the Burlington Parks, Recreation, and Waterfront Department said of a major trail upgrade coming to a piece of land off North Avenue.

Vermont’s congressional delegation announced this week that Burlington received a $500,000 competitive grant from the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership through the National Park Service.

The grant money, which comes from corporate use fees on the nation’s federal lands, not from taxpayers’ pockets, will help Burlington add a new 12-acre park to connect North Avenue to the Lake Champlain waterfront via the city’s popular bike path—which is also growing through ongoing expansion and improvement work.

“Construction will begin next summer,” Safavi said of the trail work and other upgrades to the new park land off North Avenue, behind the former Burlington College property.

She noted that a prime aim of the work is to make trails more accessible to people with mobility challenges.

The park is just the latest project in what many consider one of the busiest stretches in memory for both public and private development in the state’s largest city.

A dizzying list of jobs now underway includes new dorms and academic buildings at the University of Vermont, an expansion for patient comfort at the UVM Medical Center, more student housing for Champlain College, improved sidewalks and water lines around the city, hundreds of apartments planned for the defunct Burlington College property, and a transformation of a tired downtown mall into new levels of rental units, office space, and refreshed ground-floor retail.

“We have a lot of interest in the retail space,” the mall’s redeveloper, Don Sinex, told NBC 5 News last week. “I would suspect we would have binding agreements for more than half of the space in a few months’ time.”

All told, that list alone represents several hundred million dollars in projects underway now and over the next few years.

“We are thriving right now,” Mayor Miro Weinberger told necn. “This is a place that you can have an outstanding quality of life, and increasingly, where you can earn a living–which wasn’t always the case in the past. But it’s an important part of what Burlington is today.”

Economist Tom Kavet said Burlington’s boom mirrors development in a lot of other urban areas in the country.

“In large part, that’s where the growth is,” Kavet said of the Burlington area. “The lowest unemployment rate is there; a lot of the new investment is happening there.”

While Weinberger said the long list of public and private projects is a testament to the vitality of his small city, he noted that a challenge moving forward will be ensuring the city can be an affordable place to live for people of all backgrounds.

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