July 1, 2016
Dear Members of the Burlington City Council and Members of the Burlington Planning Commission:
Please accept the following proposal and comments regarding the Burlington Town Center Redevelopment project. The project, as all of downtown, is in my legislative district. Please also allow me to mention that I have worked on and supported downtowns and against out-of-town development for many years including when I chaired the Natural Resources and Energy Committee when we lost the battle to stop the suburban Diamond Run Mall in Rutland (half-empty and failing today). I was a member of the Montpelier Planning Commission once and now I live in and represent, the greatest district, the Old North End and Downtown Burlington.
Remove all of the new proposed parking garage structures, renovate existing parking with no net increase in number of parking spaces; utilize existing excess parking and institute smart parking system; bring building heights and anything else that may be outside of existing zoning, into compliance.
This project presents a great opportunity for Burlington to do more than just embark on another anywhere USA downtown redevelopment. We can provide some sorely needed national leadership by developing a downtown where people enter, exit and circulate by foot, bicycle and mass transit. One where pedestrian, bicycle and transit (someday electrified) access is not an adjunct to automobile access but the centerpiece. We might be able to hide the 3-story parking garages but we cannot hide the traffic added to the streets when the cars move to and from the several hundred additional garage parking spaces.
What is the attraction to our rather famous downtown now? It’s certainly not the parking garage, the City’s or Macy’s. We are told that it certainly isn’t the Town Center Mall. Downtown is not on the waterfront and frankly, the architecture and streetscapes are not (relative to some other New England downtowns) terribly special. It’s Church Street. The only street in the city without cars on it.
There are so many benefits to the proposal brought forward by Don Sinex, it is truly a great opportunity. Let’s steer this project into something that serves the community’s needs and provides some climate and livable communities leadership. If all we do is tear down our out of fashion shopping center for one that is in fashion, increase rather than decrease car traffic, we will be at it again in 20 to 30 years when this one is out of fashion and we “need” more parking. Fashion by definition, must change periodically. Let’s build like they used to, for the needs of the community in structures that are built to last for purposes that are on-going.
I am well aware that building new residential, shopping and office floor space without a corresponding increase in parking spaces is not an easy sell to developers and much of the, especially out-of-town, public. If it can be done profitably at this time, it would be in a popular downtown. And if it can be done politically at this time, Burlington might be the place.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit these comments.
Rep. Curt McCormack, Burlington