South Burlington Moves Ahead With City Center
The city of South Burlington is moving forward with plans to build its own city center. Plans include a downtown area with shopping, dining, access to public transit and even affordable housing.
Inspired by downtown re-vitalization in cities like Winooski, the South Burlington City Council passed a resolution last month to move forward on planning the project. But the process is likely to take years.
With about 18,000 residents, South Burlington is Vermont’s 2nd largest city. But to some people it doesn’t exactly feel like a thriving urban center. Instead, what springs to mind are big box stores, suburban neighborhoods and shopping malls. The city is trying to change that perception.
Pam Mackenzie, the chair of the South Burlington City Council, says the lack of a central meeting place is a problem.
“There really isn’t a place that is the center of South Burlington,”says Mackenzie.
Mackenzie says she hears feedback from residents all the time:
“Wouldn’t it be nice if we were able to do some sort of 4th of July celebration, or Veteran’s Day celebration, or on and on,” she says.
Mackenzie says South Burlington is taking cues from nearby cities like Winooski, which has been able to re-vitalize its downtown in recent years and attract thriving businesses.
The idea is not a new one. Officials have been kicking around the idea for a downtown for over thirty years.
At one point a model of a prospective city center was on display at town hall. The process lost momentum, and that model was taken down at least a decade ago.
Right now, the plan isn’t very specific, and Mackenzie says the to-do list is long:
There’s land to acquire, there’s infrastructure to design, who’s going to be included in it? Do we move city offices down there,” says Mackenzie.
Because South Burlington is seeking to build a city from scratch, officials say there are major projects, like a sewer system for example, to plan.
The council is currently at work on a timeline, but Mackenzie says it could be quite some time before residents will be shopping and dining at City Center.
“I doubt if we will see a shovel full of dirt for five years,” says Mackenzie.