Community Benefits & Minimizing Risk
The redevelopment of the Burlington Town Center represents an historic opportunity to transform a significant piece of the downtown core, and to implement many of the ambitious goals of planBTV Downtown & Waterfront. Through the Predevelopment Agreement, the City has worked closely with the owner of the site to incorporate many elements which respond to community goals, while mitigating potential challenges and risks.
- Redevelops the former Urban Renewal site, significantly adding to the City’s tax base and Grand List. Currently, the site is significantly underdeveloped and, therefore, is not supporting the community through tax revenues to the degree that it should. Downtown is only 2% of the City’s land area, but pays 22% of its property taxes; more mixed-use development eases the tax burden that would otherwise be borne by residential properties. It is anticipated that the project will generate $2.4 Million in annual tax revenue to the City in 2020, the first full year after the project is complete.
- Achieves the planBTV Downtown & Waterfront goal to restore street connectivity at St. Paul & Pine Streets between Bank and Cherry Streets, for use by pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles. And, the new streets and other public improvements will be paid for using new taxes generated by the redevelopment of the site.
- Brings active uses to Cherry and Bank Streets to support the vibrancy of downtown and create a stronger connection between Church Street and Lake Champlain, adding economic opportunity that supports job creation, growth in retail sales tax collection, etc.
- Significant influx of downtown housing, including 274 units of mixed-income housing, 55 of which will be affordable to residents earning 60% of the Area Median Income, and another 80 of which will be leased to Champlain College students. These units will help address a chronic shortage of housing options, which is currently forcing renters to pay an average of 40% of their income on rent (30% of household income is considered "affordable").
- Location of housing in the downtown core and adjacent to the new transit hub supports the City’s goals to reduce auto-dependency. Typical households spend 22-37% of their income on auto-related expenses; reducing auto-dependency could mean that households, especially lower-income families who have less flexibility in their household spending, could spend more on housing, food and other expenses.
- Student housing units in a downtown, mixed-use project furthers City Council’s 2015 Housing Action Plan goal to “create approximately 1,500 new, well-managed student housing beds on-campus and in the downtown…” by 2020.
- Anticipated to generate 547 jobs during construction and an additional 957 permanent jobs in a range of skills and backgrounds including maintenance, tech, retail, service/admin, management, food prep and office. Additionally, employees in these jobs will be paid livable wages.
- Proposed redevelopment includes a daycare, indoor community space, publically-accessible rooftop observation deck, and covered bicycle parking facilities.
- The environmental benefits of the proposed DMUC Zoning include: Significant new stormwater protections for the Lake, LEED Gold Certification or equivalent building standards, and repurposing an underutilized space with new housing, commercial and retail options in a downtown core instead of facilitating sprawling development across greenfields, forests, farmland and other open spaces.
- Proposed zoning introduces more prescriptive regulations for urban design, resulting in new development which embodies the vibrancy and activity that Burlingtonians expect in downtown.
- To help the community understand what effects this project could have on the character and scale of Burlington, changes to the downtown skyline, and areas impacted by shadows, Devonwood and the City have made available: Before-and-After Images of the proposed development, a 3-D physical model of the proposed development (at Fletcher Free Library), Shadow Studies, and an Urban Design Analysis of the proposed project by the City’s Technical Team.
- In response to questions about the feasibility of the proposed project and the capability of Devonwood to complete it, Devonwood has commissioned both an Economic Impact Study and a Market Feasibility Assessment of the proposed project; the market assessment concluded that the project is economically feasible and represents a viable investment for Devonwood.
- The City hired a third-party firm, ECONorthwest, to evaluate the market assessment and the capability of the development team to execute the project. ECONorthwest is in general agreement with the findings of Devonwood’s Market Analysis, and that Mr. Sinex has considerable experience with large scale complex projects, strong relationships with financial institutions, and experience navigating the development approval process.
- The Predevelopment Agreement is structured to protect the City from risks associated with the public street and infrastructure improvements, which are the only elements of the project for which TIF is proposed to be used. The public improvements will be priced through a competitive process, and the City will only reimburse the property owner for the cost of these improvements after they’ve been constructed to the City’s standards, and the project has generated sufficient tax revenue for the City to service the debt utilizing TIF.
- While some have shared concerns that the proposed DMUC Overlay zoning would allow for a significant increase in development throughout downtown, the proposed zoning is limited to 8.7 acres of land, and includes 7 properties owned by 4 land owners. Throughout the DMUC district, the change in zoning could allow for about 12% more development than is allowed today (just under 380,000 Sq.Ft. in additional building area). However, the change would result in 12% less development on the Burlington Town Center site than allowed today, due to the creation of two new street segments.
- Some residents have expressed concerns that the project will lead to gentrification of downtown Burlington. However, the project proposes residential development on a significant site in downtown where residential development does not exist today, bringing with it mixed-income housing and amenities to support its residents. 20% of the housing units in the project will be affordable. And, another 30% intended to be leased to Champlain College students, which can help shift some students out of historic residential areas surrounding downtown, helping to reduce long-standing quality of life issues in those neighborhoods.
For more detailed information about how the City has sought to maximize community benefits and minimize public risk, you won’t want to miss these documents:
- Before-and-After Views of Downtown from various locations in the City- based on Oct 2016 Plans
- Shadow Studies for all seasons for blocks surrounding BTC Site
- Urban Design Analysis of Proposed Project by City’s Technical Team
- Renderings of proposed Public Improvements
- Market Feasibility Assessment of Proposed Project
- Summary of Public Process & Key Recommendations