Mayor Miro Weinberger Announces Groundbreaking on the Moran Frame

August 19, 2020
Contact: Olivia LaVecchia
                (802) 734-0617

Mayor Miro Weinberger Announces Groundbreaking on the Moran Frame

Thirty-four years after the Moran Municipal Generating Station was decommissioned, the City of Burlington breaks ground on the “Frame” concept to restore public access to this part of the waterfront, activate and stabilize a long-abandoned site, and transform the former power plant into a Burlington landmark


Burlington, VT – Today, Mayor Miro Weinberger announced that the City of Burlington has broken ground to transform the Moran Municipal Generating Station into the Moran Frame. After more than 30 years of ideas and efforts to reimagine the long-abandoned former coal plant, the Moran Frame will restore public access to this part of the waterfront, stabilize and activate a derelict site, and create an iconic Burlington landmark that alludes to the area’s industrial past. The project represents the final piece of the broader transformation of Burlington’s northern waterfront that voters endorsed on Town Meeting Day 2014, and lays the framework for additional uses and improvements to be added to the Moran Frame site in the years to come.

“In the fall of 2017, following years of efforts that proved to be infeasible and facing unexpectedly high removal costs, I asked the CEDO team to make one final attempt to identify a viable project using only salvageable elements of the existing structure and the dedicated funds we had for the site,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “As is so often the case with great design, the constraints that we faced in this final attempt produced a creative breakthrough. Today, we’re breaking ground on a transformative project for Burlington, and also celebrating the full rebirth of the post-industrial northern waterfront as a recreational and cultural treasure for all Burlingtonians to enjoy.”

Mayor Weinberger was joined at the groundbreaking by many of the people who have committed time and creativity to reimagining the Moran Plant over the last three decades, including former Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle, past and present directors and staff members of the City’s Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO), the members of the New Moran effort, and employees from the Burlington Electric Department, among others.

Vision for the Moran Frame

The Moran Frame peels back the brick exterior to reveal the building’s steel superstructure, while retaining Moran’s distinctive tiered shape. When complete, the Frame will consist of an open-air park surrounding the historic structure of the Moran Plant, painted a striking red. The plan activates the abandoned site, improves public access to the waterfront, and integrates with surrounding resources, all while saving a piece of history and creating a lasting new legacy in this part of the waterfront.

The project will:

  • Peel back the brick and concrete exterior of the Moran Plant, thereby avoiding the significant expense of stabilizing the bricks, and revealing the steel frame beneath;

  • Stabilize the steel frame;

  • Abate and remediate hazardous building materials, including asbestos, lead paint, and PCB paint, in order to make the site stable and safe for the public;

  • Complete remediation of the soils at the Moran site and, in so doing, finish remediation of soils throughout the Waterfront Access North area;

  • Create an at-grade, level grassy area underneath and around the Moran Frame; and

  • Introduce sub-grade utilities to help support future, additional resources as part of the Moran Frame.

Even as the Frame achieves long-awaited resolution for the Moran Plant site, it also provides the “framework” for future phases that could include amenities such as bathrooms, shade structures, water’s edge paths, and viewing decks that look out on Lake Champlain.

The Moran Frame avoids pitfalls of past efforts, which have been pursued from 1986 to 2017 and spanned everything from a full adaptive reuse of the building to complete demolition. With a full adaptive reuse, efforts ran into the high costs of winterizing the building envelope and stabilizing the brick. Complete demolition, meanwhile, was found to also be costly given the environmental remediation required, and did not achieve the goals of preserving the site’s history and integrating it with the surrounding public use of the waterfront.

The project budget is $6.55 million, funded by $3.5 million from the Waterfront TIF district, a $2 million redevelopment loan from the federal Agency of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and a planned settlement of no less than $950,000 from the Burlington Electric Department for environmental costs. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2021, and will be managed when finished by the Waterfront division of Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront. While project work is happening, the project also will put dozens of local tradespeople back to work in a COVID-safe way during the economic crisis of the pandemic.

“Burlington's Waterfront, once an urban wasteland, has evolved nicely over the past four decades,” said Peter Clavelle, Mayor of Burlington from 1989-1993 and 1995-2006. “Yet, efforts to revitalize the Moran Plant and clean-up the site have been elusive. I'm very pleased that the Moran Frame project is finally underway.”

“All Burlingtonians should take pride in the groundbreaking today, which has been decades in the making,” said Luke McGowan, Director of CEDO. “So many community members, City staff, and the CEDO team in particular have helped make the transformation of this iconic structure possible. To me, this represents the best of Burlington's approach to solving problems – preserving the embodied energy of the Moran Frame while also moving toward a reimagined future.”

“Seeing the Moran Plant finally move forward and taken off ‘the endangered species’ list is a great feeling,” said Katharine Montstream, Burlington artist and part of the earlier New Moran effort. “It would be a shame to level all of the industrial waterfront relics and smooth it over. The Plant was a big part of Burlington's early history and now it will be a great destination for local folks and visitors.”

Transformation of the Northern Waterfront

The Moran Frame is the final piece in the revival of the northern waterfront, which has included public and private investment in new resources for recreation, cultural activity, and access to Lake Champlain.

This revival began in 2014, when over 70 percent of Burlington voters approved a slate of six projects intended to strengthen the waterfront. These projects were recommended by a public committee through the Public Investment Action Plan (PIAP) process, and funded through the Waterfront TIF district and leveraged private funds without any impact on current property taxes. (Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, is a tool that uses the future tax revenue generated by new growth to fund investments in public infrastructure and facilities).

Today, these six projects have transformed the northern waterfront:

  • The Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center is completing its third summer at its landmark new home;

  • The new Water Works Park has increased access to the water’s edge through a wooden boardwalk, benches, fishing pier, and many native shrubs, grasses, and trees;

  • Waterfront Park and the entire northern waterfront have received improved landscaping, environmental remediation, and utility relocation;

  • ECHO has opened a new parking amenity, solar canopy, rain gardens, and public art; and

  • The Burlington Harbor Marina has created a home for many more boats in the Burlington harbor, along with publicly accessible amenities like bathrooms.

Resolution for the Moran Plant is the sixth and final project that was part of the PIAP slate.

These projects have been coordinated with and build on other recent reinvestment in the waterfront, including the creation of Andy A_Dog Skatepark, the rehabilitation of the Burlington Bike Path, and new access to Lake Champlain through Texaco Beach. More broadly, since the 1960s, and led by support from the public, the City of Burlington has acquired over 60 acres of waterfront land and removed the petroleum tanks, industrial buildings, and other structures that had been left on the waterfront as it transitioned from an area for first lumber processing and wharfing, to a rail yard and bulk petroleum facility. In doing so, the City has restored public access to the central and northern waterfront.

"This project serves as the last piece of the puzzle on Burlington's transformation of our waterfront from an industrial wasteland to a recreation hub,” said Owen Milne, Executive Director of the Community Sailing Center. “You have us at the Community Sailing Center, Burlington Harbor Marina, The Greenway, Skate Park... We welcome Moran FRAME to the club of active waterfront spots."

A Former Coal Plant Transformed in a City that Now Generates 100% Power from Renewable Generation

In addition to marking the transformation of the northern waterfront, the Moran Frame also will be a powerful symbol of Burlington’s energy transition. Burlington is proud to be served by a municipal electric utility, the Burlington Electric Department, which was founded in 1905. In 1952, voters approved bonding for the Moran Municipal Generating Station, which was opened two years later was opened in 1954 as a 30-megawatt power plant that turned coal into electricity. In 1977, in response to fuel shortages, the plant was converted to wood chips, and in 1978, voters chose to further pursue wood chips for fuel and voted to construct a new generating plant in Burlington’s Intervale. The new McNeil Wood-Powered Electric Generating Facility opened in 1984, and as a result, the Moran Plant was decommissioned in 1986. Several BED employees who worked at the Moran Plant continue to work at BED, including Jim “Duke” Dutra, who attended the groundbreaking on Wednesday.

Nearly 30 years later, in 2014, Burlington purchased the Winooski One Hydroelectric Facility, and in doing so, completed the City’s transformation from relying on the coal-fired electricity of the Moran Plant to being powered by 100 percent renewable electricity – the first city in the country to achieve that milestone. Since then, Burlington has continued to set and work toward some of the most ambitious local energy and climate goals in the country.

“At the Moran Plant in the 1970s, Burlington Electric began the work of transitioning from coal to renewable energy, which culminated in Burlington becoming the first city in the nation in 2014 to reach 100 percent renewable electricity,” said Darren Springer, General Manager of Burlington Electric Department. “This groundbreaking to return the Moran site to productive community use marks a firm break from the past when we relied on coal, and comes appropriately in a year when renewable electric generation nationally is set to outpace coal for the first time.”

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Rendering: Moran Frame

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