Designed by architect Frank Lyman Austin, Memorial Auditorium was built as a 2,600-person auditorium and civic center to honor World War I veterans. Built in 1927, with the grand opening in 1928, Memorial has hosted public performances, private functions, athletic events, farmers’ markets, exhibits, a day care, and a teen center. Over the years it has been managed by hired contractors, Burlington City Arts, and the Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department. Many in Burlington and the surrounding area have a favorite memory linked to this building.

Unfortunately, since the 1990s the City has struggled to keep up with the needed repairs and required updates to the building and its equipment. Memorial Auditorium was closed at the recommendation of the City Engineer to ensure the safety of the public in December 2016. Over the years, many redevelopment concepts and ideas have been considered for Memorial Auditorium and the larger “Gateway Block” (which extends from South Winooski Ave. to South Union Street along Main Street). Thus far, none have proven feasible or garnered sufficient public support to advance. The opportunity for a new future for Memorial Auditorium is now, and we are eager to hear your ideas!


Current Renewal Process


On December 15, 2017, Mayor Weinberger issued a memorandum to the City Council noting that Memorial Auditorium has had a long history of serving as a valuable community assembly space, and that there is great interest in knowing the City’s plans for determining how best to rehabilitate and steward this historic building for future generations to enjoy. In this memo, Mayor Weinberger outlined his proposed next steps to bring the building back to life:

  • Create an adaptive reuse plan for Memorial Auditorium to remain a publicly-owned, public assembly space with input from stakeholders and members of the public.

  • Create conceptual designs, construction pricing, and financing options for this adaptive re-use plan that reflects that feedback and provides details on the cost and possible sources of funds.

  • Complete this plan so that it can be considered by the Council for a November 2018 ballot item.

Engaging stakeholders and the general public is a key part of this process, with a specific focus on determining priority elements of the design and program for Memorial Auditorium.

CEDO, taking up this charge from the Mayor, will lead this important initiative to better understand the community’s desires for the future of Memorial Auditorium, capturing priorities for the building’s restoration and renewal. It is our intention that this process be guided by principles that include equity, participation, and transparency. CEDO is preparing to provide the following support and information to the public to help people develop ideas:

  • Gather information on how the building had been used in the past as well as how it had been managed and operated;

  • Gather the various suggestions for future uses and programming, and outline what particular needs each use might include (such as space needs, specific safety or code updates, etc.);

  • Outline options for how the building could be operated and managed moving forward, and the cost and benefit for each option for the community to consider; and

  • Research how other communities have redeveloped, financed, programed, and operated their own Memorial Auditoriums.

Our efforts are also guided by the goals in planBTV and planBTV Downtown & Waterfront, as discussed in the Current Renewal Process & How to Get Involved section.

For more information on the background and plans for this effort, see Mayor Weinberger’s press release and memorandum to the City Council, or click on any of the links below that provide information about:

Additionally, we have compiled a Documents Library on Memorial Auditorium


Moving Forward

For the City of Burlington to move forward with a viable plan to rehabilitate Memorial Auditorium and operate it as a responsible steward over the long term, we need you to be a part of the process to help determine Memorial Auditorium’s future. To learn more about ways to participate, click here.

Based on the feedback gathered from Burlington residents (and other interested community members) about how Memorial Auditorium can best be used and operated in the future, CEDO will synthesize those ideas and prepare a proposed program of uses for the building. The City will undertake a competitive process to select a design and cost estimating team. That selected team will develop conceptual plans based on the proposed program of uses, and current construction cost estimates of those plans. To save time and cost in this process, information from already completed building assessment reports will be used to the extent possible.

Concurrent with the design process, CEDO will research and test potential sources of capital funding that could be used to pay some of the costs to rehabilitate Memorial Auditorium and help limit any future taxpayer burden. In addition, CEDO will assess the feasibility of, and costs and benefits associated with, suitable management and operating structures so that the ongoing costs of operation and stewardship of Memorial Auditorium over the long term are identified and sustainable.

CEDO will report publicly to the City Council and the Council’s Parks, Arts and Culture Committee periodically through spring and summer 2018 about progress on the design, cost estimating and operating cost forecasting. CEDO plans to provide a comprehensive analysis and proposal for consideration by the City Council in September to guide Memorial Auditorium’s future. Pending City Council approval, a proposal and bond issue for Memorial Auditorium could be on the ballot in November 2018 for voter consideration.

Please note that at this stage, this process will not result in exact uses, an operating structure, or determination of what organizations, businesses, or programs might ultimately be in the building. Once funding to rehabilitate the building is secured, a separate process to determine specifics will commence.


For a summary of the primary uses of the building from the 1980s to present, see this timeline.


For a more extensive history, see the University of Vermont’s Historic Preservation Program Director Professor Thomas D. Visser’s presentation on a brief history of Memorial Auditorium and his student Emma Haggerty’s research on the City’s planning for the construction of Memorial Auditorium.  




We will be adding more important and interesting references from over the years. Check back periodically to see what has been added.


Snapshot of Burlington City Arts in Memorial Auditorium, 1995Burlington City Arts was charged with the stewardship of Memorial Auditorium in 1993. This document summarizes the first two years of this work and presents a mission statement and program statement for Memorial Auditorium. It also contains a two-year plan.



National Register Nominaiton FormIn 1988, Memorial Auditorium was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing building within the Main Street - College Street Historic District.





What Does the Future Hold for Memorial Auditorium?, Channel 3, 2017

Burlingtonians Speak Out to Save Memorial Auditorium, Seven Days, 2017

Tenants Must Vacate Memorial Auditorium by Year’s End, Seven Days, 2016

Memorial Auditorium’s Future Unknown, Burlington Free Press, 2015

Memorial Auditorium Showing Its Age, Burlington Free Press, 1996


Click HERE to submit questions or comments

You can also email us at MemorialAuditorium@burlingtonvt.gov or call us at 802-865-7144.