Burlington, VT-The Burlington City Council has approved a measure to support downtown businesses that report sales are down because of widespread public safety concerns.

The council voted to allocate $100,000, with half coming from federal COVID funds and half from the Pomerlau Family Foundation.

A portion of the $100,000 is earmarked to improve lighting and security downtown, allowing stores to remain open later and to ease fears of employees and customers.

Some of the money will go to ‘Love Burlington,’ an online marketing campaign by the city that promotes some 400 small businesses through listings and social media outreach.

Downtown business have been vocal about public safety in the areas surrounding their storefronts. A recent Burlington Business Association Survey found that over 50% said their sales had gone down in recent years, and that they’ve had employees quit because of concerns over personal safety.

Councilor Tim Doherty (D-East District) said he believes the the funding is crucuial.

“I think it is absolutely essential that we maintain our sense of urgency here on the council to take whatever steps are in our power to support our local businesses, to support our downtowns, to make improvements and restoring law and order,” he said. 

The city council also has plans to overhaul the Central Fire Station and Memorial Auditorium as part of a project to revitalize what officials call the city’s ‘Gateway Block.’

The city has reviewed two proposals for the work, neither of which came to fruition. On Monday night, councilors agreed on a resolution that included a letter of intent to allow developers to do preliminary work in order to see what it will take to complete the project.

Samantha Dunn, assistant director of Burlington Community Works, said the project has a long road ahead of it. The final proposal for development would need council’s approval, which likely won’t come for months following extensive public engagement.

“There’s a reason that this redevelopment hasn’t happened,” she said. “It’s because there are a lot of barriers, and it’s going to require creativity, partnership and hard work to continue to figure out how to overcome those barriers.”