BURLINGTON, Vt. – After a year of mounting pressure from the city, the developers of the long-delayed CityPlace in downtown Burlington presented an updated proposal for the project to City Council on Monday.
The new plan by Brookfield Properties calls for scaling down the original 14-story mixed-use “center block” to 10 stories, and adding a seven-story, 175-room hotel.
The new design comes two months after Brookfield representatives frustrated city councilors by failing to offer an update on the project, including a timeline on when the stalled construction might resume.
In an Aug. 27 letter, Mayor Miro Weinberger warned Brookfield that it was not in compliance with the October 2016 development agreement with the city. Weinberger gave the company until October 28 to come back to City Council with an updated plan.
Late last week, in a two-page letter to Weinberger, Aanan Olsen, vice president of development at Brookfield Properties, outlined agreements negotiated with city staff leading up to Monday’s council meeting. According to the letter, Brookfield has also committed to a new development plan for the former Macy’s building. Originally planned to be redeveloped into retail space, it will now be a mix of retail and office.
The developers also said they were “working diligently” to meet the deadlines needed to ensure the planned relocation of the University of Vermont Medical Center’s business office.
In a statement released after Monday’s presentation, Weinberger said Brookfield “appears to have resolved internal disagreements that have delayed the project,” but still has a lot of work to do before the end of the year to get it back on track.
“The revised plans that Brookfield presented would achieve all of the major goals that the City has held for this site from the beginning, including restoring lost public streets, creating hundreds of much needed new homes and downtown jobs, and generating substantial new public revenues,” the mayor said.
Construction is now expected to begin some time in 2020. But with the project now well over a year behind schedule, that’s subject to change. Olsen has blamed the lack of progress on outstanding litigation, the complexity of the project and escalating costs.
On Monday, Councilor Sharon Bushor told Olsen she was relieved to see more significant progress. But she asked when her constituents would get a chance to weigh in on yet-another major change.
“It’s really important they have a chance to weigh in, and I just didn’t know how that was going to unfold or what your expectation was for that,” Bushor said.
Olsen said Brookfield is putting together a comprehensive community outreach program, including plans to speak at several upcoming Neighborhood Planning Assemblies.
Earlier this month, they agreed to reimburse the city more than $200,000 in administrative costs.