Work Underway on Filling ‘The Pit,' Long an Eyesore in Vermont

A stalled redevelopment project in downtown Burlington now has new life 

NBC Universal, Inc.

Work is underway on a massive construction project in Burlington, Vermont, that has been stalled for the better part of five years, becoming a real eyesore in the city’s busy shopping and dining district popular with tourists.

Just steps off Burlington’s iconic Church Street Marketplace, you’ll find another landmark no one wanted the city to ever have. It’s not-so-affectionately known as “The Pit:” what’s left from the demolition of an old mall in 2017. 

Since then, the site has been mostly inactive. Redevelopment work stalled between lawsuits, financing challenges, changes in ownership and design, and the pandemic.

Stalled, that is, until now.

"This is what we need to make our downtown healthy," said Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington. 

Site work resumed this week, with a new team of builders at the helm. They are well aware of the urgency to fill that hole in the middle of downtown, said Scott Ireland of S.D. Ireland Construction. 

"We need to make it happen," Ireland said of completing the project after years of inactivity. "Hopefully, this growth will spur much more growth."

"A lot of people have been waiting a long time for this," noted Al Senecal of Omega Electric Construction. "We go to different peoples’ offices downtown here or visit people and it’s all everybody’s talking about: 'Is it ever going to happen?' And it’s going to happen now. It’s a pretty transformative situation, you know?"

Plans call for more than 425 apartments, with a fifth of them remaining affordable under a definition that will set prices based on a percentage of area median incomes and family sizes. Those housing units are much-needed during Vermont’s housing crisis, the mayor noted.

The $200 million job will also feature retail space, parking, a rooftop restaurant, and observation deck — plus, the city will get back sections of two streets lost when that old mall went up decades ago.

"We’re in a period of recovery as a function of the pandemic," Weinberger told NECN & NBC10 Boston. "I think it’s a real shot in the arm to that recovery to see this moving forward again."

Developers are still working on attracting partners, Dave Farrington of Farrington Construction said. Farrington said based on where things stand now, he expects to finish the project in November of 2025. 

For many in Burlington, that will mark a welcome end, finally, to the era of “The Pit.”

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