City Planning

planBTV: Downtown and Waterfront

A bold and catalytic plan for the heart of our city.

planBTV: Downtown & Waterfront Master Plan is an ambitious plan that translates our broad, city-wide goals for sustainable development into focused, actionable, area-specific strategies to ensure the vitality of the central core of the city. The plan's strategies are organized around seven themes that emerged during the project, and reflect the character and spirit of the city: a vibrant economy, housing choice, transportation choice, active and healthy living, environmental and cultural stewardship, sense of place, and creativity and innovation. The plan further identifies opportunities for how the plan's strategies and "big ideas" can come to life within distinctive parts of the downtown: Main Street, Church Street, "the Mall" (the former Burlington Town Center), Pearl Street, the Railyard District, the North Waterfront, and the South Waterfront. Bold in its recommendations, the plan has proven to be catalytic in shepharding in new thinking about what’s possible, and has spawned transformative changes throughout the downtown area that will benefit generations to come. It has also reshaped how Burlingtonians think about planning, and has become the gold-standard for all subsequent planning initiatives undertaken by the City.

The launch of "planBTV"

Long recognized as one of America’s most livable and sustainable small cities, Burlington struggles to address complex urban challenges in a small New England community with big ideas and even bigger ideals. The City is challenged to build upon past successes, while not assuming that success will continue without ongoing innovation and investment. The development of a plan for the downtown and waterfront had been a long-standing action item in the City's Municipal Development Plan since at least 1996. Finally, with the help of a 2010 HUD Sustainable Communities Challenge Planning Grant, City planners and Burlingtonians began a strategic look at how to sustain and enhance the economic vitality of the city’s downtown and waterfront area.

Creating this plan was the most comprehensive planning process, and most inclusive and extensive community engagement effort Burlington had ever seen. It reached thousands of people through dozens of meetings and events, both online and in-person. The process emphasized action and advancing good ideas quickly – even before the plan itself was finished. What emerged was branded as “planBTV” - and redefined the City's approach to land use planning, updating its Municipal Development Plan, and engaging the community in the process. After more than 3 years, the planBTV: Downtown and Waterfront Master Plan was unanimously adopted by the Burlington City Council in June 2013.

What's been done so far?

Adopting a plan is the easy part. Implementing its vision is the hard work. Check out what's been done so far as a result of planBTV: Downtown & Waterfront:

  • In October 2015, a new downtown parking management strategy and system was launched as a collaboration between the City and the Burlington Business Association. Learn more by visiting the Park Burlington website.
  • In November 2017, City Council adopted a form-based code encompassing the downtown and waterfront area that implements the vision of the plan and modernizes the regulatory review process. Learn more by visiting the Downtown Form Based Code webpage.
  • In March 2018, City Council also adopted new downtown street design standards, and in the fall of 2019, we opened two reconstructed blocks of St. Paul Street using this new template. We are working on additional plans for the reconstruction of more downtown streets. Learn more by visiting the Great Streets BTV website.
  • In the Spring of 2018, the  Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center moved into its new home on the waterfront, just to the north of the A_Dog Williams Skatepark. You can learn more by visiting the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center webpage.
  • In the fall of 2018, Champlain College's 194 St. Paul Street Project (f.k.a Eagle's Landing) was completed. The project includes a 104 unit, 6-story apartment building with 4,200 sf of ground-level retail space and 66 space garage, many of which are open to the public. Learn more by visiting the 194 Saint Paul Street website.
  • In the Spring of 2019, the new Burlington Harbor Marina opened next to the City's Water Treatment Plant and the Moran Plan. This includes a 106-slip private marina with associated seasonal and transient marina facilities.
  • In the fall of 2020, the rehabilitation of City Hall Park was completed. The park includes extensive stormwater and infrastructure improvements and supports the modern use of this historic central gathering point for Burlington. Learn more by visiting the Burlington Parks, Recreation and Waterfront website. 
  • CityPlace Burlington is under construction. This is the ~$200 million redevelopment of the former Burlington Town Center into a multi-story mixed use development with retail, office, parking, and 270 residential units with 20% affordable. (groundbreaking 10/2017, anticipated completion tbd). You can learn more by visiting the CityPlace Burlington webpage.


For more information about planning in Burlington, contact Principal Planner, Charles Dillard at