'No-Go:' Burlington Mayor Weinberger rejects previous plan for Moran plant
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger this afternoon announced that he has scrapped the plans the city had for the former Moran generating plant on the city's waterfront. Under the administration of former Mayor Bob Kiss, the city had spent more than a million dollars in trying to come up with a plan to renovate the site.
Weinberger said at a press conference near the defunct Moran plant that he now wants the private sector to lead the redevelopment in conjunction with the city. The new mayor insisted that the city not take the financial risk of underwriting the redevelopment, which he said could include the dismantling of the old coal-burning plant.
Weinberger said: "The City will not go forward with the former administration’s plan to have the City of Burlington serve as the developer of a complicated, speculative, commercial real estate venture. I will not risk Moran becoming another Burlington Telecom. However, after years of delay, further inaction is also untenable. The city must move forward with a plan for redeveloping this critical piece of our waterfront."
Weinberger said that over the past four years, the city has spent $750,000 of the City’s capital funds on the Moran redevelopment and has loaned over $500,000 from the cash pool to the project. He said it would take at least an additional year and an estimated $900,000 of at-risk public spending to close the deal.
Weinberger said wants to start a accepting proposals September 30 for a competitive process that will conclude with a "new direction" proposal by April 2013. He said the city could employ $3 million for a TIF district, which would need approval of voters in November. Burlington's Community & Economic Development Office already has secured $3 million in funding for the area called Waterfront Access North, what at one time was known as "the north 40."
Overall, Weinberger said he has a five-point action plan for near-term progress on the northern waterfront:
1. The City will go forward with a new, open, focused, and competitive process (the first in 17 years) to determine the future of the Moran building and site.
2. The City will go forward with Waterfront Access North, the long-planned improvements to the site around Moran that include remediating environmental concerns, burying power lines, creating parking, establishing storm water facilities to protect the lake, and building a new skate park.
3. The City will go forward to find a permanent home on the Burlington waterfront for the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center and attempt to establish a long-term agreement with the Sailing Center within the next year.
4. The City will go forward to begin the work of transforming our bike path, which has a proven track record of attracting visitors and revenue to our City, into an enhanced, modern, world-class recreation amenity. To responsibly fund this project, I will ask the City Council and the voters this fall to support a multi-million dollar tax increment financing (TIF) investment in the path.
5. The City will go forward with planning the best ways for the public to enjoy and benefit from the Urban Reserve, our potentially remarkable City asset immediately north of Moran that was set aside 20 years ago for our generation to revive.
Kate Neubauer, Executive Director of the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center, said her organization is in full support of the mayor creating an open RFP process for the redevelopment of the Moran site.
Neubauer said, “We look forward to continuing our collaboration with the City of Burlington on improving Burlington’s waterfront and making Lake Champlain accessible to the entire community.”
The Community Sailing Center has operated on Burlington’s waterfront in a leased space since 1994 and was a key tenant in the original Moran Redevelopment Project proposed by former Burlington mayor Bob Kiss. The non- profit organization provides access, educational programs and recreational opportunities on Lake Champlain for the entire community and experiences over 18,000 visits annually. It has been working with the City for over five years on securing a permanent home on Burlington’s waterfront. Now more than ever, the Community Sailing Center is set on a course to reach that goal.
“A land agreement with the City will provide a remarkable opportunity for the Community Sailing Center to fulfill our vision of a stand-alone building that stimulates waterfront development and meets the community’s needs for years to come,” said Marc Sherman, president of LCCSC Board of Directors. “The new facility will be a gateway to Lake Champlain – a vibrant waterfront facility that engages participants, welcomes the community, promotes lake- based activities for all ages and abilities, and is the anchor for the Community Sailing Center’s growing breadth of programs.”
Weinberger was joined at the announcement by the following community leaders (quotes are included with the names of those who spoke at the press conference):
- Karen Paul, Ward 6 City Councilor and Chair of City Council’s Parks, Arts, and Culture Committee – “The Mayor's decisive announcement today lays out a clear path that I believe is an important, significant and prudent departure from the prior plan, and more likely to achieve the best outcome for Burlington. I support the Mayor's new direction and vision and will be working in partnership with him to see it implemented as expeditiously and thoughtfully as possible.”
- Joseph Boutin, Chair of Moran Blue Ribbon Committee (BRC) and retired Merchants Bank President – “Two years ago the Moran BRC raised concerns about the City’s ability to implement the complex financing proposed in the Moran plan, about the project costs, and about the timeline required to keep the project feasible. The challenges have continued to grow since the BRC report was completed, and I am pleased to see our new Mayor responding to these concerns and charting a new course.”
- Al Gobeille, Chair of Board of Burlington Business Association and Principal of Gobeille Hospitality and Lake Champlain Cruises
- Marc Sherman, President of Board of Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center and founder of Outdoor Gear Exchange – “A land agreement with the City will provide a remarkable opportunity for the Community Sailing Center to fulfill our vision of a stand-alone building that will stimulate waterfront development and meet the community’s needs for years to come.”
- Kate Neubauer, Executive Director of Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center
- Trina Zide and Brendan Foster, Co-Owners of Maven, a Burlington skate shop – “We're thrilled to have a new Mayor who cares about the skateboard community in town and understands the importance of providing a world-class and safe skate park as part of his waterfront development plans. We look forward to working closely with the Mayor's team to make this a reality.”
- John Bossange, Chair of Bike Path Task Force and Commissioner of Department of Parks and Recreation
- Chapin Spencer, Member of Bike Path Task Force and Executive Director of Local Motion – “We welcome the Mayor’s announcement today that he will seek the authority this fall to make a $3 million TIF investment in the most heavily used section of the bike path. This is a key first financial step towards improving and expanding Burlington’s bike path.”
- Kirsten Merriman Shapiro, Special Projects Manager, Community and Economic Development Office, City of Burlington
- Nick Warner, Special Projects Manager, Community and Economic Development Office, City of Burlington
- David G. White, Principal of White + Burke Real Estate Investment Advisors, Inc. and Moran Plan Advisor to City of Burlington
Story and Photos: Vermont Business Magazine, July 2, 2012