Plans are underway to give a shopping plaza in Vermont a major makeover.
It’s happening in Burlington, in South Burlington and now, in Essex, Vt. at the Essex Outlets.
The Essex Outlets were born at the heyday of outlets.
“That was in ’93. In ’93, the outlet industry, I’m involved in the outlet industry nationally, it was really hitting its stride and growing,” said Peter Edelmann, the owner and operator of Essex Outlets, Essex Cinemas and Essex Resort & Spa.
But the last two decades have not been kind to the outlet industry.
Edelmann says the concept never really clicked in Vermont’s largest town.
“We’ve never really thrived here,” he said. “We’ve had some good tenants here. They come and they go. It’s the outlet industry so it’s fashion, so it comes and it goes. There was never really a strong consistency to it.”
Edelmann says the clock is ticking on his property.
“If I don’t change what I’m doing now within the next 2-3 years, I’m going to be in trouble with my lenders and we’re going to have a center here that more and more people will be leaving,” he said.
Under Armour, Ralph Lauren, Coach are all tenants who have left in the last few years.
Edelmann says it’s time for “experiential shopping,” meaning a plaza where people can come to shop, eat and spend their day.
He’s pitching the idea to the town of Essex next week.
His current plan involves tearing down two of his buildings and replacing them with mixed-use buildings with both residential and commercial units as tall as six stories high.
“It’ll afford the ability to underground parking for the residential units which is, I think, something that would be very attractive,” said Edelmann. “But on the ground floor of all the buildings, we would have streetscape type commercial users.”
He says the goal is to have 400 – 600 units to add density to the center.
His plans also include a brewery, boutiques and entertainment.
“If I can add an upscale bowling alley, that’s a component I’m working into the plan,” he said. “I’m looking to do an outdoor skating rink in the winter time that in the summer time could be a farmers market.”
The owner of Purple Sage, Kim Scofield, is moving her salon into the old Ralph Lauren space. By moving, she’s expanding her shop from 1,250 square feet to 7,300 square feet.
She’s adding a barber, nutritional health counseling, nails and a salt cave.
“This is amazing,” Scofield says about the development plan. “I want to be a part of this. [Edelmann and I] have the same mission: to make it a destination, to make it up scale, to make it something that no one else has.”
“I think this will be an amazing place,” said a business owner in the Essex Outlet who wished to remain anonymous. “What’s happening now should have happened years ago. I really think that the growth is here. We got the space. We got the parking. We got the energy. It’s hard but the buildings need work.”
Edelmann will present his conceptual plan to the Town of Essex Planning Commission on Thursday August 24th at 6:30pm.
Sharon Kelley, the town’s Zoning Administrator, says the plan is too preliminary to comment on it. But she points out Edelmann’s project falls within the scope of the plans to update the Town Center Master Plan.