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Burlington Mall Developers Provide Few Details, No Start Date For Stalled Project

The site of where a new mall is set to be built in downtown Burlington.
Liam Elder-Connors

The CityPlace Burlington project is facing more delays as developers appear to be scaling back the proposed redevelopment in the city's downtown core.

The project site has sat quiet in Burlington for the past year amid growing public frustration over the lack of progress and communication from city leaders and the developers, Brookfield Properties.

Chelsea Ziegelbaum, development manager at Brookfield, said in an email statement Friday that construction has stalled "due to various reasons including the complexities of the project and associated cost considerations."

Brookfield's statement provided no specifics about what changes could be coming, but Ziegelbaum indicated that construction is not starting anytime soon.

"Over the next several months, we will be working collaboratively with the administration and stakeholders to refine our development plan to ensure we have a design that is consistent with the community’s values and goals," Ziegelbaum wrote.

She also noted that a pending lawsuit, which she said was "without merit," could also impact the "scope, scale and timing" of the project. Thelawsuit alleges that developers changed the amount of parking in the project and violated the terms of a settlement to a previous lawsuit.

Ziegelbaum did immediately respond to a request for further comment.

In alengthy statement, also released Friday, Weinberger said he was "frustrated and disappointed" by the delays, but he expressed optimism that Brookfield would move the project forward.

According to Weinberger, the company is also considering changes that would address the "the size and scale criticisms of the project."

"I am hopeful that Brookfield's current review and design changes ultimately will lead to a better project for Burlington," the mayor wrote.

The email statement by Brookfield comes days after the Burlington City Council was briefed by Mayor Miro Weinberger and city officials behind closed doors

Reporters outside the closed door meeting overheard an architect tell city officials changes were coming, including an "extensive" redesign. However Burlington city officials and councilors refused to share details with the public, but promised to say more once Brookfield issued a statement.

On Friday, Democratic City Councilor Karen Paul said Brookfield’s statement was “welcome news.”

“They expressed a continued explicit commitment to a design that’s reflective of Burlington's goals and values ... and I think it's going to result in a project that's more well received in the community,” she said.

Paul said she’s always felt the original project was out of scale for Burlington, though she’s generally supported the project, including a vote last year to allow developers to pour the foundation without the financing in place.

Adam Roof, an Independent on the council who’s also supported the development, said Brookfield’s statement provided some clarity.

“This is a project that is not in shambles,” Roof said. “We don’t have a developer that's walking away. We don’t have a developer that doesn’t have capital. We don’t have a property owner without vision.”

Progressive Councilor Max Tracy, a longtime critic of the project, said Brookfield still hasn’t offered enough specifics.

“We need to be given a clear timetable for how their planning to get us out of this and then we need to see them actually meet that timetable because they continue, they continually have failed to do that,” Tracy said.

One thing that all three councilors agreed on was that Brookfield needs to be more communicative with the public.

Need to catch up? Click here to see a timeline of the CityPlace Burlington project.

The CityPlace project has a tumultuous history. If all had gone according to initial plans in 2016, it would be nearly finished by now.

Developer Don Sinex was the face of the project in its early days. At 14 stories, CityPlace would have been the largest building in Burlington. The proposal required voters to approve a zoning change, which passedafter lobbying from Weinberger and several city councilors.

Since then, the project has faced numerous delays. Last year, after the construction stalled, the city council allowed Sinex to move forward with foundation work, even though Sinex did not have financing in place.

Sinex never restarted construction. Earlier this year, his partner in the venture, Brookfield Properties, took over daily operations. Sinex has largely vanished from the public eye. When asked about changes to the project earlier this week, he told VPR he had "no idea as to what changes you are referring to."

Brookfield has rarely spoken publicly about the project. The last time representativesappeared before the city council was in April.

But in Friday's statement issued by Ziegelbaum, the company said they remained committed to completing the project and promised to provide updates and "continue to communicate with community leader."

Update 4:51 p.m. This post was updated to included comments from city councilors.

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