Mayor’s Office

Office of Mayor Miro Weinberger

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October 21, 2020
Mayor Miro Weinberger

Neighbors,

This past weekend, we celebrated the re-opening of City Hall Park. On Saturday I ate lunch there with my family on the new, brightly-colored outdoor furniture, and we watched as people enjoyed the new park in so many different ways – children (and many adults) played in the new fountain, people danced on the steps of City Hall while a band played music, City staff led tours of the new plantings and stormwater features, and Burlingtonians of all ages and backgrounds sat on the dozens of new benches and took in the beautiful fall day. Stacy and I made a second trip to the park with our puppy Wally in the evening and took in a whole new scene: the Vermont International Film Festival showing a film on an outdoor screen in front of the Burlington City Arts firehouse, and the water pillars of the fountain illuminated from below by LED lights.

In short, it was a great day, made even more meaningful by the fact that it arrived seven months into the Covid-19 pandemic. I write to share some reflections on the significance of this community milestone:

On this opening weekend, we achieved the central goal of renovating City Hall Park: to give it more life. In recent decades, the park was dramatically underused much of the time. The renovated park includes many features designed to change that: numerous spaces for eating and gathering, multiple locations to support cultural events, a fountain that is a joy to play in or simply watch, thousands of new shrubs and perennials and public art that uplifts the spirit, and much-improved lighting and pathways to ensure that all can enjoy the park throughout the day and evening. I invite you to learn more about the park’s new features on the City website.

The true test of the transformation will be whether this new vibrancy is sustained in the months and years to come. To that end, it was exciting to announce on Friday that Northfield Savings Bank has committed to sponsor free cultural programming in the park, organized by Burlington City Arts, throughout the next year. In addition, the City will be hosting a series of outdoor events this fall and winter in the park to make it possible to enjoy our downtown and outdoor activity even as we continue to work to suppress the virus. Watch for more on these outdoor opportunities in the weeks to come.

At the opening ceremonies on Friday, I also dedicated the park renovations to Burlington residents who we have lost to the coronavirus to honor them and help us hold onto the crucial lessons of 2020 when better times return. In a garden by the new fountain, we are installing an engraved plaque that reads in part: “A comprehensively redesigned City Hall Park re-opened after a year of construction amidst the largest global pandemic in 100 years… In the years to come, as children play in jets of water and crowds assemble to enjoy each other and our city’s great music, food, and events, let us never forget that these joyous scenes are fragile, and that their continuation can only be guaranteed through an ongoing, vigilant commitment to public health and science.”

I am deeply grateful to the City team and partners who persevered through controversy and setbacks to deliver this great new public space to Burlingtonians. Hundreds of residents participated in the “Imagine City Hall Park” planning events in 2011, but in the years that followed, there were many times when the future of this project was in doubt. But we stuck with it. When contaminated soils drove up the costs, we secured new funds from institutions and private donors and took more of the work in-house to keep the cost to property taxpayers under $1 million. When controversy arose over making changes to this important historic space, we forged compromises that improved the final design. We sustained the will and focus for a decade, and now, at long last, we have a public space at the physical and cultural heart of Burlington that is alive, worthy of this great community, and accessible and welcoming to all.

If you haven’t experienced the new park yet, I hope you will come out and enjoy it this weekend before the fountain jets are winterized for the season. The new park reminds us that better days are coming, that we will truly be a stronger community on the other side of this pandemic, and that while some projects require a long road, your City government has the tenacity and capability to see them through. I look forward to seeing many of you at the new park.

Warmly,

Miro

Take a look at a few great photos from opening weekend of the park below. All photos by Renee Greenlee:

Photo: City Hall Park

Photo: City Hall Park

Photo: City Hall Park

Photo: City Hall Park

Photo: City Hall Park

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