This week marked the most visible progress yet in the complicated work to reimagine a tired, 40-year-old mall in the heart of downtown Burlington, Vermont.
Demolition crews chewed apart exterior walls on part of the Burlington Town Center mall, carting off debris and recycling as much of it as possible.
"I never had any doubts that a project of this magnitude in the town would be transformative," said Don Sinex, the real estate developer leading the $225-million job.
Sinex plans, by fall 2019, to open CityPlace Burlington’s 1.25-million square feet of retail, dining, offices, and 274 housing units—some of them, affordable.
Opponents at first blasted the concept, arguing its 14-story reach would be too tall for a small city. But voters approved it, as well as the changes to traffic patterns to come.
Recently, there have been concerns raised about impacts to city sidewalks during construction, and the eventual loss of this parking garage. Some merchants worried the parking would go offline during the critical holiday shopping season.
The developer agreed to spare the garage from the wrecking ball until after Burlington’s big New Year’s Eve party, to minimize impacts on the community.
"The fact he very kindly has agreed to keep his parking garage open–400 additional spaces–is tremendous news for the city and all of us," said Becky Cassidy of the Church Street Marketplace.
"You do everything you can to build the project in a manner where the least number of citizens are inconvenienced," Sinex told necn. "That’s why we kept the garage open when we heard some complaints—that’s why we phased it the way we did."
Cassidy said the Church Street Marketplace is eager for a new injection of spending from the renters and office workers expected to fill City Place Burlington.
The developer predicted he’ll have signed leases for much of his new retail units by the time the framing starts going up this spring.