An image of the season I won’t soon forget was the sight of my eight-year-old daughter feeding a giant vat of chopped up apples into an old fashioned cider press with her grandfather. I hope you too have had a fall marked by cider donuts, great hikes, spirited back-to-school events, Halloween prep, and other highlights of the glorious Vermont fall we have been enjoying.
Progress on the waterfront
If your autumn adventures have taken you to the waterfront since the beginning of October, you have seen that major construction is underway on two separate City projects. The Department of Public Works is leading the Waterfront Access North project that is cleaning up and extending public infrastructure in the northern waterfront area surrounding the Moran Plant, and in Waterfront Park the Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department has begun the historic, multi-year effort to rehabilitate and enhance the entire eight-mile long Burlington Bike Path. Together these projects represent more than $10 million of voter-approved, public infrastructure investment in the waterfront and constitute the most significant step forward in the City’s long-term effort to revitalize the formerly industrial waterfront in the past two decades. We are fortunate to be able to make these investments without impacting property tax rates through the use of our Waterfront TIF economic development fund.
In addition, in the last couple of weeks, Green Mountain Power has removed their lines and poles that were for many years an eyesore in Waterfront Park. It is exciting to stand by the lake today and envision the new life and public use of the waterfront that we will see in the years ahead when the construction crews have finished their work.
Now that we have momentum in our waterfront redevelopment efforts, we are beginning to shift some of the Administration’s focus towards achieving the goals for the downtown articulated in planBTV. We are moving on many related fronts in this effort. In the months ahead, the Administration and the City Council will be working on numerous issues involving the future of the downtown:
- Housing Action Plan: We are nearing completion of our Housing Action Plan that will lay out a number of new strategies for addressing Burlington’s housing affordability crisis, and that will encourage new housing options be created on downtown surface parking lots and other underutilized spaces.
- Form-based code: Last week the City Council unanimously passed a resolution committing the City to pursue a major revision of the downtown and waterfront ordinance that states that the “overall purpose of the proposed form-based code is to promote and advance new infill development and adaptive re-use in the Downtown and Waterfront areas that reflects Burlington’s character and sense of place while taking advantage of limited opportunities for new development at modestly larger scales and densities where appropriate.” I am optimistic that this strong consensus about what our goal is for the future of the downtown and waterfront will lead to a meaningful, high-impact reform of the land use regulations for those areas.
- Downtown TIF: All of the current progress on the waterfront, and much of our past progress there, has been funded by TIF funds that do not impact local property tax rates. We have a similar opportunity in the downtown and have begun to plan our first Downtown TIF investments. These efforts will be getting a lot of focus in the months ahead and likely before the voters in some manner in March.
- Redevelopment of Burlington Town Center Mall: Under the leadership of the new owner Don Sinex, exciting things are starting to happen at the mall. In just a couple of weeks, the new LL Bean store will open with an entrance on Cherry Street, bringing new vibrancy to that block. Sinex is actively working on further investments in this large, central downtown property.
- New CCTA Transit Center: For many years, the City has sought to relocate the undersized and dated mass transit facility at the corner of Cherry Street and Church Street. CCTA has been leading this effort for a couple of years, and last week the City Council approved my Administration’s proposed easement that will allow CCTA to build a modern, well-designed, larger facility in the City’s St. Paul Street right-of-way between Cherry Street and Pearl Street. We look forward to news regarding a ground-breaking for this much-needed facility soon.
Upcoming dates of note
On November 12 from 5:00 to 6:30 pm we will hold the first meeting of the Mayor’s Book Group, where we will discuss An Idea Whose Time Has Come, Washington Post writer Todd Purdum’s history of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We will start the event with a panel that includes UVM Professors Emily Bernard and Alec Ewald and Fletcher Free Library Director Rubi Simon and then move into small group discussions in which everyone can contribute. The book is great and a quick read – it is not too late to start and participate. Stop by the Fletcher Free Library circulation desk to pick up your free copy of the book provided by the UVM Humanities Center and join us.
On February 21, 2015 the City of Burlington will turn 150 years old (before 1865, Burlington was organized as a town). We are planning a late afternoon “birthday” celebration to reflect on this milestone and look to the future. I hope that you will help us mark the occasion – please save the date and stay tuned for details.
During November I will speak and answer questions at all of the NPAs. I plan to talk about the future of Burlington Telecom, the findings of the Retirement Committee that began meeting in January and just completed its work, the future of the Champlain Parkway, and other neighborhood-specific issues.
Finally, as always, I invite you to join me at the Bagel Café on Wednesday mornings from 8:00-9:00 am and at our other open coffees and community events. To get information about these events and other City news, please visit www.Facebook.com/MiroBTV. I hope to see you soon.