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Burlington mall developers, residents agree to settle lawsuit

The site of the CityPlace mall redevelopment in Burlington.
Liam Elder-Connors
A long-standing legal challenge to a redevelopment of Burlington's downtown mall is ending, which could open the door to construction beginning.

A long-standing legal challenge brought against the developers of the CityPlace Burlington project is ending, removing a hurdle that could allow construction of the beleaguered project to finally begin.

A motion signed on Monday by Chittenden Superior Court Judge Helen Toor effectively ended two pending lawsuits, though there is still some paperwork to file with the court, said John Franco, the attorney representing the Cityplace opponents.

“I had clients who are retired and just wanted to move on,” Franco said. “They had been involved in this thing for five years and it was very stressful.”

Franco declined to provide details about the settlement, but said the parking spaces that were required to be built as part of the previous settlement are not included in the new deal.

More from Vermont Public: Local developers buy Don Sinex out of Burlington mall redevelopment

A group of citizens sued developer Don Sinex in 2017, alleging that he violated terms of a previous agreement. Sinex countersued in 2020, claiming the residents were the ones who had violated the settlement agreement.

In May, Sinex sold his shares in the project to three local developers: Dave Farrington, Al Senecal and Scott Ireland. The new CityPlace team and the project’s opponents reached a deal with the project opponents, according to court papers filed this week. Farrington did not respond to a request for comment.

The motion, signed by Toor, removes Sinex from the pending litigation and puts the new development team in his place. Sinex did not respond to a request for comment.

More from Vermont Public: Two prime lots remain vacant during Vermont housing crisis. Will that change soon?

The redevelopment of the Queen City’s downtown mall has had a tumultuous history. It’s faced redesigns, several lawsuits, including from the city of Burlington, and despite repeated assurances from Sinex and his former partner, Brookfield Properties, construction never began. Instead, the lot has sat vacant for more than four years, leaving a pit in the center of the city’s downtown.

The new developers are facing a critical project deadline in the near future. An agreement between the city and the project team requires that construction to start by Sept. 30 or the developers will be on the hook for the cost of reconnecting two public streets. But Brian Pine, director of Burlington’s Community and Economic Development Office, toldSeven Days last week the city is negotiating an extension with the developers.

The project is expected to include a mix of retail space, restaurants and 427 residential units. Last week, the developers submitted a request for federal funding to help build approximately 80 units of affordable housing that will be part of the project.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Liam Elder-Connors @lseconnors

Liam is Vermont Public’s public safety reporter, focusing on law enforcement, courts and the prison system.
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