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UVM halts student housing project due to construction costs, workforce shortage

A mostly empty parking lot surrounded by trees on a sunny day.
Zoe McDonald
Vermont Public
This parking lot near the DoubleTree hotel in South Burlington was slated to be the site of Catamount Woods, a development that would have housed 540 University of Vermont undergrads. The project has been halted due to costs.

The University of Vermont is abandoning plans to build a new undergraduate housing complex due to rising construction costs and the labor shortage.

The Catamount Woods project, which was first announced in August 2023, was planned to be built on the eastern side of the university’s Burlington campus, in a parking lot next to the DoubleTree hotel in South Burlington.

School officials decided to step away from the project after receiving updated cost estimates that came in significantly higher than what was initially proposed, said UVM Chief Financial Officer Richard Cate.

“When we got refined numbers last week, it became clear that the cost had risen significantly, to the degree that we determined it would not be affordable for our students,” he said. “And so we, with our partners, decided that it'd be best not to proceed with the project.”

They informed school board members of this decision at a board meeting last week, according to a press release.

Cate said external factors drove up the cost of the project.

“It's so expensive to build in Burlington and Chittenden County,” Cate said. “There's a real lack of skilled people and unskilled labor for construction projects. Meanwhile, of course, the cost of materials has escalated a significant amount since the pandemic, and interest rates are very high at the moment. … So, everything combined just drove it up to an unacceptable level.”

Cate said he could not publicly disclose the updated price of the project.

The project would have housed 540 students in three-bedroom apartments. Construction was scheduled to begin this year and had the goal to move students in by the fall of 2025.

Cate said the university is currently looking at alternative options for housing.

This decision further complicates the university's effort to build more student housing. The university and the city of Burlington have had tense back-and-forth on the subject over the years.

Last year, Burlington city councilors paused a zoning amendment that would have allowed the university to build on its Trinity Campus. Councilors expressed concerns that the university would use this as an initiative to expand their yearly undergraduate enrollment.

More from Vermont Public: Why a plan to build more UVM student housing in Burlington has been stalled for months

University administrators and city officials presented a drafted agreement to Burlington councilors last December that would commit the school to increase student housing if they expand their enrollment. The council has yet to vote on it.

The university is currently in the process of building another housing project, Catamount Run, in South Burlington. The first phase will open this August to students in the university’s graduate and professional programs and faculty.

Cate said that the cost of Catamount Run is at a fixed rate, so current increased construction costs should not impact the cost or further development of this project.

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