Local Motion Releases Comments on BTC Mall Redevelopment

BTC_image.jpgLocal Motion has long been and will continue to be a strong supporter of redeveloping the Burlington Town Center mall, with the goal of creating more value for our community on this key downtown property.  As Mr. Sinex’s proposed redevelopment project has moved forward, we been actively engaged and have listened carefully to a wide range of perspectives on both the process and the design.  Here are what we see as some of the most important issues to resolve as the project moves forward.

We believe that Mr. Sinex's proposal overall has far more good than bad in it and should be granted the opportunity to move forward.  As we see it, the key benefits of the project include:

  • Reactivating the streetscape with storefronts and walk-bike friendly infrastructure

  • Re-opening public rights-of-way at Pine Street and at St. Paul Street, with an emphasis on walking and biking

  • Adding a substantial amount of housing and office space, which Burlington very much needs and which will help build a vibrant downtown

Within this context, we see several areas where changes to the proposed design or to related initiatives are needed to help this project realize its full potential for Burlington.  The issues we feel most need attention include:

  • An unbreakable commitment to re-establishing Pine and St. Paul as fully functioning public rights-of-way.  As we understand it, adding these two streets to the City's official map—a change that is incorporated into the proposed zoning changes already—will in fact make it illegal for the City to approve any development proposal that does not accommodate these streets.  This is good.  That said, reestablishing these streets is so important that we feel it is worthwhile to state affirmatively that, bottom line, they must be constructed as part of any project on this site.  We recommend that the Council pass a resolution or other measure stating explicitly that re-establishment of these streets is a fundamental condition of approval for any proposal to redevelop this site.

  • A commitment to expedited construction of bicycle infrastructure to and through the project area.  Whether residents and employees at this site are able to use bicycles as an everyday form of transportation depends to a large degree on how safe and easy it is to bike to and from the site.  This is the responsibility of the City, not of Mr. Sinex, and it is essential that the City make needed upgrades in the surrounding area in tandem with the mall project.   We recommend that the Council pass a resolution or other measure directing the administration to expedite implementation of those portions of PlanBTV Walk-Bike that most directly serve the project area, as needed to ensure safe and easy bicycle access to the site from its first day of occupancy.

  • A requirement that all parking be located in building interiors.  We agree with critics of the project that—even if disguised or screened, and even if only on upper stories—parking that extends to a building's facade detracts from the life of a street.  It is also a waste of space that could much more productively be used for housing, offices, or other active uses.  Requiring that parking be moved to the interior could spur a reduction in the amount of parking, accompanied by creative strategies for reducing parking demand (such as remote parking and shuttles for UVM Medical Center employees).  We recommend that the zoning overlay district require that all parking be located in building interiors.

  • A requirement that structured parking be designed such that it can be easily repurposed as housing and office space over time.  We understand that Mr. Sinex has already indicated that he will design the parking garages such that, if and when parking demand declines in the future, the space can be converted to other uses.  (Presumably this means building parking decks that are level with access ramps, rather than designing the decks themselves at an angle.)  We recommend that this design feature be required for all new structured parking, not only in this district but across the city.


With the above changes, we believe that Mr. Sinex's project will make Burlington a significantly more vibrant, thriving, equitable, and livable city.  It is Local Motion’s assessment that it is in the interest of our community to move this project forward.  We encourage all Burlington residents who share these values to support the project’s advancement as well.  

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  • John Snell
    commented 2016-09-14 19:41:06 -0400
    All good stuff! Thanks.