After three and a half years, the gigantic hole in the ground in downtown Burlington won’t be there much longer. Construction of the $160 million CityPlace Burlington development will finally break ground about when the spring thaw arrives.

The last activity at the CityPlace project site — which many Burlingtonians now know as ‘the pit’ — was in August 2018. That’s when demolition ended for most of the former Burlington Town Center mall and parking garage.

“The project has suffered long delays, for lots of different reasons,” CityPlace Burlington partner Don Sinex said. “Brookfield (Properties)’s indecisiveness, the time it took to buy them out, the lawsuits by the city, the lawsuits by (John) Franco, the lawsuits by 100 Bank Street, the revisiting of the entitlement process with the (Burlington Development Review Board), and so on and so forth.”

According to Sinex and one of his partners in the project, construction of phase one of CityPlace Burlington will start almost as soon as winter ends. They shared this information Thursday night at a meeting of Burlington’s Ward 6 Neighborhood Planning Assembly.

“Late April, early May — something along those schedules,” Sinex said. “I don’t see anything that could disrupt that schedule at this point, but one never knows, of course.”

CityPlace will eventually have 45,000 square feet of retail space, 426 apartments and 422 parking spaces. A new hotel was once going to be part of the project, but it was stripped from the plans shortly before the pandemic began.

Phase two of construction will include knocking down the L.L. Bean building on Cherry Street. The L.L. Bean store will move to Williston in either late June or early July.

“We expect to be filing for the zoning permit in late spring — about the same time that we expect to start construction of the first phase — and we know that’ll be a process throughout the summer,” Sinex said. “We’re moving ahead on (planning that) phase and expect that as soon as L.L. Bean vacates the premises this summer, we would have a permit and we can then start demolishing that.”

That second phase also includes re-connecting the northern and southern portions of Pine Street and St. Paul Street. The construction of the old mall, which opened in 1976, disconnected both of them.

“We worked out a lot of issues and details with (the Burlington Department of Public Works) on stormwater stuff and sidewalks and the trees and how we’re going to build the roads and how we’re going to protect the adjoining buildings,” project partner Dave Farrington said. “We’re just patiently waiting for the appraiser to get back with the construction loan bank and give us the green light.”

Phase three of construction can’t begin until Burlington High School moves out of its temporary home in the former Macy’s building on Cherry Street. The final phase involves the demolition of that building.