City Planning

About the South End Innovation District

Having more housing located close to jobs, schools and other amenities is an important need in Burlington and across Vermont. The South End’s Enterprise District is home to a big collection of jobs—artists and makers, entrepreneurs, and companies large and small—and is a well-loved destination to explore local creations of all kinds. The Enterprise District, however, doesn’t allow housing of any kind.

The City has a housing crisis. This impacts the city and region as a whole, and the people that are hard at work in the South End today. We also know that things are constantly changing and it has been harder to find affordable work and studio space in the neighborhood as well. This area of the South End has a number of underutilized parcels that offer an opportunity to make the neighborhood and the city more economically and environmentally sustainable by providing places where people can work, create, live, and play—and without getting in their cars. 

Creating a South End Innovation District is about:

  • Exploring zoning changes for a portion of the existing Enterprise Light Manufacturing zone that would allow housing to be incorporated into new developments along with other uses in a way that supports and protects artists, makers, office startups, and other aspects of the South End that we love.
  • How this zoning change can help facilitate related efforts to identify models for affordable arts, commercial, and housing space; support public access to the Barge Canal and increase connections to the lake; and realize long-needed infrastructure improvements.

Read a summary of the proposed ordinance or read the full proposed ordinance

South End Innovation District Frequently Asked Questions

For more information about the context of the proposed South End Innovation District, you can visit the SEID Story Map or watch our video series about the Proposed Zoning Framework.
The proposed change is to create a new overlay district in an area within the Enterprise-Light Manufacturing district that today regulates much of the non-residential waterfront. The biggest changes the proposal makes are to allow residential uses in the area included in the overlay and to prohibit some heavy manufacturing uses that are permitted today but that are not compatible with residential use. However, it’s important to note that almost all of these heavy manufacturing uses left the city long ago. Additionally, the proposed amendment would create new height limits to allow for some taller buildings and the creation of a relatively dense, urban and accessible new mixed-use district.
The proposed amendment would establish standards to which future development must conform. An example of a goal is to facilitate the development of arts and making uses, as well as community services like childcare. To that end, the proposed amendment would limit some other non-residential uses, like restaurants, as a way to induce the provision of needed and desired arts, making and community uses.
The impetus for the Innovation District is planBTV:South End. The Plan, based on extensive community input, called for the creation of an Innovation District that would feature arts, manufacturing and the newly-established office and innovation sector taking place in the South End. The addition of residential use to the Innovation District was initially a request by property owners. However, the Mayor, along with Champlain Housing Trust, arts advocates and others, signed a Memorandum of Agreement in 2021 advocating for housing in a future Innovation District and this is part of the city’s 2021 Housing Action Plan. Affordable housing and affordable artist and maker space are all goals of the zoning amendment.
A primary goal of the zoning amendment is to create an accessible district that is walkable, bikeable, and where any individual, regardless of mobility challenges, will be able to move with joy, comfort, and safety. In our public engagement for the zoning amendment, we have heard many similar comments and it is safe to say there is general, nearly unanimous support for making this a “car-light” district.
The only uses permitted today in the area proposed to be within the overlay are heavy manufacturing uses that are not compatible with residential uses or community uses like schools or childcare. Examples of such uses include recycling facilities, lumber yards, coal processing and chemical production. Take a look at our proposed zoning framework for more information
The proposal continues to permit all arts, making and light manufacturing uses that are currently allowed in the area today and we are working to ensure that zoning changes would prioritized arts, making and community service uses (e.g. childcare) over other non-residential uses like restaurants. One theme that we have heard over and over is that artists and makers need housing too, especially affordable housing. A goal of the district is to create more homes that are accessible to artists, so that they can continue living and creating in Burlington and the South End.
The Barge Canal is a lasting piece of the South End’s industrial heritage, and is a Superfund Site regulated by the EPA. It is made up of a number of properties: an 11-acre parcel owned by the City, and an additional 8 acres owned by private landowners closest to the railroad tracks and the water’s edge beyond. The entire collection of properties is currently zoned for conservation today, which precludes most development. There are other private properties around the Barge Canal that are impacted by it. Some of these sites are considered Brownfield properties, and development on these sites needs to be carefully conducted so it doesn’t impact the cleanup of the Barge Canal itself. Click here for more information about the Barge Canal and the development of superfund sites.


Do you have questions about this project? 
Check out the project's FAQs or contact Principal Planner, Charles Dillard, at
Want to revisit the Virtual Meeting from July 7th? Check out our YouTube for the recording! 


About the Proposed Zoning Framework

Explore details about this part of the South End and potential zoning changes.

Innovation District Next Steps

Learn more about what the next steps and milestones are for the South End Innovation District.

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