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New development plans in Burlington - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

New development plans in Burlington

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Big changes are coming to Burlington, starting with the area around the vacant Armory building on Main Street that was destroyed by fire nine years ago. It's sat empty ever since. But Erik Hoekstra-- a real estate developer with Redstone-- is working to turn it into a $20 million hotel.

In addition to the 140-room hotel, it will also include retail space for a restaurant and bar.

Reporter Gina Bullard: Is there really a need for another hotel?

Erik Hoekstra: The market suggests that there is. Occupancy in Burlington has been stronger than any other market in New England.

Burlington hotels are 80 percent full at all times and Burlington officials say those guests are vital to the downtown.

"Studies have shown people spend several hundred dollars in addition to their room rate; shopping, going out to dinner. So it brings a big economic boom to the whole downtown," said Kelly Devine of the Burlington Business Association.

"Hotel guests will walk through the backside toward the south into a new construction building that will span from Pine Street to St. Paul. That building will be constructed on top of a two-level parking structure," Hoekstra said.

The Main Street development project is part of a larger plan trying to drive foot traffic from Church Street to the waterfront.

"We want to give people a reason to walk between the marketplace and waterfront. Anything we can do on Main, College and Cherry is really important to create flow," Devine said.

"It's time to take another step forward with the waterfront," said Mayor-elect Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington.

Development is a priority for Weinberger. He supports transforming the empty armory into a hotel and he also wants to focus on the waterfront, especially the industrial section between ECHO and the ferry docks. His goal-- expand the boardwalk and add shops, restaurants, housing and possibly even another hotel.

"It is a priority to see the work of reclaiming the waterfront from the industrial past turning it into a 21st century waterfront," Weinberger said.

A transition period for the city into what many hope is an even more vibrant downtown.

The new hotel is slated to break ground by the end of the summer and open in the beginning of 2014.

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