CityPlace Burlington construction resumes after years of delay
Construction began this week on a long-stalled development in the heart of Vermont’s largest city. The CityPlace Burlington project is slated to bring hundreds of new apartments to a city that, like the rest of the state, is struggling with a historically-tight housing market.
On Tuesday morning, an excavator prepared the redevelopment site for a new foundation, the first substantial work at the former site of Burlington’s mall since the building was knocked down four years ago.
“We just wanted to get going … just get the ball rolling,” said David Farrington, one of the project developers, as he gave reporters a tour of the construction site. “That’s what this whole project seemed to need, so [we] kind of lit the fuse.”
Farrington, along with Scott Ireland and Al Senecal, bought the property from Don Sinex earlier this year. The trio of local businessmen are well-known developers throughout the state.
The project, under the control of Sinex, faced numerous delays including lawsuits and redesigns. Sinex repeatedly promised to get construction started, but he never did.
Mayor Miro Weinberger, who joined the three developers at the site of the future CityPlace project, praised the work of the new team.
“They have shown again, and again, they know how to get projects done,” Weinberger said. “I've always believed in this project. This is what we need to make our downtown healthy and vibrant decades into the future. I don't regret for a moment any of the decisions that took us in this direction.”
The pit in the middle of the Queen City has frustrated residents, but the delays resulted in a project with significantly more housing. The initial redevelopment had 274 units. Now, the project will include 427 apartments with over 80 set aside as permanently affordable units. The project still includes some retail and commercial space.
The developers say the housing will be a mixture of studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments. Champlain Housing Trust, a nonprofit housing developer, will work with the CityPlace team to build the affordable housing that’s part of the project.
The CityPlace development could give the extremely tight housing markets in Burlington and Chittenden County a much-needed boost. Rental vacancy rates in Chittenden County are below 0.5%, according to data from regional housing developers. Affordable housing production has also lagged for years.
But it'll be about two years before the first housing units come online, Farrington said. The entire project is supposed to be finished in November 2025.
The redevelopment will also reconnect two city streets that were cut off by the old mall. The developers must finish the streets by Nov. 2025 in order to get reimbursed by the city. The city plans to use federal grants and the tax revenue generated from the new development to pay for the streets.
The CityPlace team is also working to secure all the financing for the $200 million project. CHT is planning to apply for public funds to construct the affordable housing at the site. Farrington says the team is planning to bring in more development partners for other parts of the project.
The redevelopment will consist of three separate buildings. The developers recently signed a new agreement with the city that commits them to building the concrete “podium” where all the buildings will stand.
Ireland, who owns S.D. Ireland Concrete Construction, said on Tuesday that the team hoped to start pouring concrete for the first building, the South Building, on Dec. 1.
“And actually in Burlington, every major foundation has been done in winter, with the exception of the courthouse,” Ireland said. “So, it’s what we do.”
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