Public/private partnership to comprehensively redevelop downtown Burlington mall for $200 million

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Public/private partnership to comprehensively redevelop downtown Burlington mall for $200 million

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 11:58am -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Burlington's downtown mall, Church Street, the transit center and surrounding streets will get a $200 million makeover, which will include a rooftop park and access between streets that was lost when the mall was first built in 1976. The plan also includes 250 apartment spaces, a convention center/hotel, more retail and more parking. Mayor Miro Weinberger and new Burlington Town Center (BTC) owner Don Sinex, Managing Partner of Devonwood Investors, LLC, on Thursday were joined by Governor Peter Shumlin to announce a partnership to comprehensively redevelop the downtown mall consistent with the planBTV Downtown & Waterfront Master Plan.

According to the mayor's office, the Administration and Sinex will negotiate a development agreement through a transparent, public process. An investment of more than $200 million in new retail, office space, housing, and public spaces would create new jobs, grow state and local revenues, restore public north-south pedestrian and bike connections through the mall along the St Paul Street and Pine Street corridors, create a dramatic new roof-top park between Church Street and Macy’s, revitalize Bank and Cherry streets and the surrounding downtown, and complement the City’s new multi-modal transit center with one of Vermont’s first transit-oriented developments. The project once fully completed is expected to generate $450 million in economic activity. Assuming the project gets approved by the City Council, in a process that could take about six months, the development of the project would take another three to five years, putting the completed redevelopment in 2020.

At Thursday’s announcement in the mall beside the new LL Bean store, Weinberger stated: “Over the course of 2012 and 2013, the thousands of Burlingtonians who helped create planBTV identified major redevelopment of the Burlington Town Center mall as one of the top goals for the downtown for the coming decades. I am excited that, just one year later, Don Sinex has stepped forward with a creative, public-private redevelopment concept that implements the planBTV vision of additional downtown housing and jobs, restored pedestrian and bike connectivity, and greater vibrancy on Bank and Cherry streets. I look forward to working with the public and Mr. Sinex in the months and years ahead to review and refine the concept and together make it a reality.”

Don Sinex speaks, while Mayor Weinberger (in open blue shirt and black suit) and Governor Shumlin and others listen. Courtesy photo.

“With each step I take in the process of redeveloping the Burlington Town Center to create a dynamic mixed use, transit-oriented project, I include a focus on the needs and desires of the Burlington community,” said Sinex.  “I am counting on the public to offer impactful input and ideas that will help us achieve our goal of turning the mall inside out – of transforming one, often hidden space into a multitude of outward-facing shops, restaurants, entertainment venues, parks, and other open spaces.  My vision is to create a mall that offers something for everyone – local community members and out-of-town visitors looking to shop, dine, be entertained – and that brings jobs, revenue, and economic benefit to Burlington and to Vermont.  Like the Mayor, I believe that we’ll arrive at the best plan for BTC only by engaging in a transparent, public process that considers a wide range of community needs and ideas.”

“This project shows how we can utilize innovative public-private partnerships to continue to strengthen Vermont's downtowns,” said Governor Shumlin.  “Burlington is already a model for how downtown development can spur job growth, economic opportunity, and positive community engagement. Today's announcement is just one more example of how Mayor Weinberger and his team are getting it right for Burlington and Vermont.”

“The partnership announced today exemplifies the best qualities of 21st century downtown development,” said Speaker of the House Shap Smith in a statement, who was unable to attend the event. “I commend Mayor Weinberger and the development team for creating a public-private partnership that reflects the needs of Burlington to expand housing and commercial and retail space offerings.  I look forward to working together on this exciting economic development opportunity.”

Fulfillment of Major planBTV Downtown & Waterfront Master Plan Goals

The Burlington Town Center opened in 1976 under the name Burlington Square Mall in conjunction with 1960s-era urban renewal development. While the existing mall has been credited with expanding the retail base of our downtown, the mall has been a chronic underperformer and a barrier to north-south connectivity, and has precluded the growth of a vibrant street life on Bank and Cherry streets.  PlanBTV Downtown & Waterfront Master Plan, a community-based planning process that engaged thousands of Burlingtonians, outlines these deficiencies and identifies restoring connectivity of the urban grid and redevelopment of the mall as major planning priorities.  At page 108, planBTV “…suggests the addition of larger residential, mixed-use buildings by redeveloping underutilized parcels, essential for addressing citywide housing needs, reducing traffic congestion and parking demand, and supporting the continued vitality of our downtown economy.”  Sinex and a friend purchased the mall as equal partners from General Growth Properties in December 2013 and, shortly thereafter, Sinex purchased his partner’s interest in the mall to become the sole owner.

Conceptual Project Plan for BTC

Sinex’s conceptual project plans include the complete transformation and rebuilding over time of the BTC, including three new buildings and a 1.5-acre public rooftop park.  The BTC plan responds to planBTV by adding downtown housing, improving pedestrian streetscapes and downtown connectivity, and utilizing strategic infill building opportunities.  The new mall concept plan would achieve the following:

·         Housing consisting of more than 250 apartment units

·         Retail space expansion of approximately 225,000 square feet (adding to the existing 125,000 square feet), including:

o   Destination retailers, like LL Bean

o   A department store

o   Restaurants

o   Entertainment venues

·         Office space expansion of approximately 150,000 square feet (adding to the existing 35,000 square feet)

·         A convention center-style hotel with 250 rooms and 40,000 square feet of convention, showroom, and business meeting space that could accommodate 5,000-person events and 1,000-person seated banquets

·         A new underground garage with approximately 950 parking spaces (an additional 375 spaces)

Sinex’s conceptual project plans will be evaluated by the City team and the community through a transparent, public process aimed at creating a development agreement between the City and Sinex.

Community Benefits

Sinex projects that the benefits a redeveloped BTC would bring to Burlington include:

·         Growing more jobs in Burlington

o   300 temporary construction jobs

o   Between 1,000 and 1,600 permanent jobs

·         Increasing housing, retail, and office space

·         Enhancing downtown connectivity by reestablishing north-south pedestrian connections through the mall on St. Paul and Pine streets

·         Complementing the City’s new multi-modal downtown transit center with a major transit-oriented development project

·         Bringing vibrancy and activities to Cherry and Bank streets

·         Serving as the potential winter home for Burlington Farmers’ Market

·         Building useable public spaces and amenities, including:

o   Rooftop public parks

o   Other open spaces

o   Increased garage parking

o   Gallerias

o   Protected north-sound bike path under the mall

·         Improving stormwater management

·         Creating economic benefits for Burlington and Vermont, including:

o   $6 million per year in new real estate tax revenue

o   $9.25 million in sales tax revenue during construction

o   $7.2 million per year in additional sales tax revenue

o   $2.4 million per year in hotel occupancy tax revenue

o   $450 million per year in estimated economic activity (multiplier effect)

Governor Shumlin, Mayor Weinberger, and Sinex were joined at the announcement by the following community and state leaders, who offered the following statements:

·         Sue Minter, incoming Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Transportation – “This is a very exciting redevelopment project that would complement nicely the investments that VTrans, the City of Burlington, and CCTA are making to construct a modern downtown transit center and set the stage for transit-oriented development in Burlington.  The mixed use aspects of the project design would support VTrans’ goal of creating more vital communities and sustainable transportation.”

·         Greg Marchildon, State Director of AARP Vermont – “AARP is particularly excited to partner with the City and the development team to engage the citizens of Burlington in an important conversation about rebuilding the heart of the City to create a more walkable and livable downtown – a place that supports residents aging in place instead of moving out of the City.  We look forward to an open and transparent public process to advance the community-based vision of planBTV.”  (Director Marchildon was unable to attend the event and was represented by Kelly Stoddard Poor, Director of Outreach of AARP Vermont).

·         Tom Torti, President of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce – “As the home of the Vermont Convention Bureau and the organization charged with driving tourists, meetings, and conventions to Burlington, the Chamber supports the development of a modern, downtown convention center space as essential to the continued prominence of Burlington as a destination of choice for meeting planners and visitors.”

·         Charlie Baker, Executive Director of Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission – “The Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission is pleased to see a major property owner in Burlington put forth a proposed redevelopment plan that epitomizes smart growth and transit-oriented development right next to the CCTA’s transit center.  The project would help implement our regional ECOS Plan by addressing the significant housing needs our region faces, while expanding the pedestrian environment, increasing employment, and improving stormwater management.”

·         Emily Boedecker, Executive Director of Local Motion – “This is game-changing placemaking at its best.  We all have been given a rare opportunity today to bring our best ideas to the table.  This re-development would increase the vibrancy of our downtown by creating a place where people want to get out of their cars to socialize and to shop, and where the experience invites them to return – soon and often!  More than just providing facilities for pedestrians and bikers to move through these downtown blocks, this project presents us with an opportunity to expand on the Church Street experience and transform the heart of our small City into a walking and biking destination.”

·         Spencer Welton, Steering Committee President of Burlington Farmers’ Market – “We are excited to be included in the planning and design process for the redevelopment of the downtown mall.  It will be great to explore how the Burlington Farmers' Market can participate in the transformation of our downtown as a more engaged and vibrant year-round, public marketplace.”

·         William H. Truex, Jr., FAIA, former Chair of Burlington Planning Commission/Urban Renewal Agency and Co-Founder of Church Street Marketplace – “The closure of St. Paul and Pine streets 40 years ago was guided by Burlington’s urban renewal planning and had the goal of expanding and connecting the existing Downtown Business District with the lake and waterfront.  The success of the Church Street Marketplace has demonstrated the critical importance of active street edges and public spaces in creating dynamic, interconnected pedestrian districts.  The genius of the new Town Center concept lies in its potential fulfillment of the original goals of increasing the density and diversity of the downtown core land uses and expanding the downtown core west, towards the lake, by reasserting the essential role of an activated and connected public street framework.” 

·         Kelly Devine, Executive Director of Burlington Business Association – “The Burlington Town Center development will have a lasting, positive effect on the heart of Burlington and the entire community.  The project would create expanded parking, new jobs, and additional retail opportunities that would bring significant direct and indirect economic benefits to Burlington.  This project represents just one part of a bright new future for Burlington’s downtown business district.  It is exciting when community members can shape and influence the future of our City.  The Burlington Business Association looks forward to being part of the dialogue that will help shape this significant project and move it forward.”

·         City Council President Joan Shannon, Ward 5 – “While I am not generally known as the first person to stand up and cheer for new development, I offer my strong support for this project, which I believe would not only enhance our downtown, but also solve the biggest problems we have in our existing urban design.  The mall currently is a grand obstruction to our existing grid, preventing pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicular traffic from efficiently navigating our City.  Cherry and Bank streets are locked and impervious.  This proposed redevelopment would tear down the walls, reintegrate the north and south end, welcome pedestrians into new streetscapes and structures, and invite human, social, and economic interactions, shunned by our current built environment.”

·         City Councilor Karen Paul, Ward 6 – “When I first learned of Don's vision for our mall and the immense contributions this project would make to our downtown both in terms of economic development potential and exciting visual and human design, ‘transformational’ was the only word that could describe my reaction.  As a lifelong resident of Burlington, I have watched our mall – from the time it was built until today – lack a presence and languish in our otherwise vibrant downtown.   The conceptual design, inspired by the themes in our planBTV blueprint, incorporates an exciting streetscape, intelligent integration of walking and biking venues, plans for a strong retail element, as well as much needed housing – all of which would have significant impacts on Burlington today and well into the future.  The economic implications of this project are far-reaching and truly remarkable for our downtown and our City.”

  • City Councilor Dave Hartnett, Ward 4 – “I am excited about the future of the mall.  Once the vision, complete with public input, becomes a reality, Burlington finally will have a complete downtown.  Members of our community and visitors to town would enjoy the Church Street Marketplace and the mall beyond.  A project like this would go a long way toward making sure we become a big part of the retail picture, and Black Friday and Small Business Saturday would be much brighter in years to come as people visit destination retailers like L.L. Bean and many other nearby shops.”
  • City Councilor Max Tracy, Ward 2 – “As we get started with the public engagement process, it’s exciting to see so many elements of planBTV already embraced in the initial design concepts.  I am particularly excited to see green design, demonstrated by a green roof and improved stormwater treatment, as well as enhanced bike-ped connectivity, through restoration of the street grid on St. Paul and Pine, playing prominent roles from the beginning.”​

Next Steps

The Administration expects the City Council to consider a resolution at one of its December meetings authorizing the Administration and Sinex to engage in a transparent, public process to reach a development agreement that will address public amenities, public infrastructure investment, project scale, and other key elements of the public-private partnership.  Upon passage of such a resolution, the Administration and Sinex immediately will be soliciting, receiving, and incorporating public input into their negotiations to create a development agreement as soon as possible.

Renderings prepared by Sinex’s architectural team from PKSB Architects, PC, Sherida E. Paulsen, FAIA, and William B. Fellows, AIA, including:

·         Concept diagram showing new north-south pedestrian connections/arcades along St. Paul and Pine streets and east-west arcade connecting Church and Pine streets

·         Exterior view of St. Paul Arcade looking north from Bank Street through mall

·         Interior view of St. Paul Arcade looking north showing possible future home of winter Farmers’ Market

·         View of Cherry Street Promenade looking west from L.L. Bean and Transit Center with enhanced street scape, green infrastructure, and street-oriented retail

·         View of rooftop public park, café, and surrounding downtown housing looking northwest

Source: Mayor's office. 11.20.2014