Burlington School District, UVM eye real estate deal - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Burlington School District, UVM eye real estate deal

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It's a real estate deal between UVM and the Queen City that could end up kicking some nonprofits to the curb. The Burlington School District voted Thursday night on half of the multi-million dollar deal. The city is eyeing the St. Joseph School, but current tenants say there is nowhere for them to go.

After hours of debate at the Burlington School District meeting, members voted in favor of the Queen City letting go of the Taft School building.

"It's an older building. I don't think we are the best tenant for that space. I think that when you have something like UVM right next door who has an interest, they become a much better tenant. I think that creates a better use of space across the city," said Burlington School Board Chair Alan Matson.

It is a deal that Matson says the city has been hoping for, for 20 years. The Taft building currently houses two education programs, but the board voted Thursday to lease the space to UVM for $1.6 million. But this transaction is only part one.

"St. Joseph's is a very good size space for a school-- it's already a school. It's got a gym, it's got a great performing stage in it, it's got a cafeteria in the basement," Matson said.

Matson says the board is looking to buy the St. Joseph School in the city's North End with hopes to turn that space into a Burlington School. But that vote was put on hold at Thursday's meeting because board members say there are too many unanswered questions about total costs, and the future of the programs already in the building.

Like Robin's Nest, a child care center that has called St. Joseph its home for 28 years. Director Tanya LaChapelle says the nonprofit day care has always served many low-income families, so their walkable location has always been key.

"They don't have transportation. It really is the walking distance that is essential to this location. Not only for the lower-income needy families, but our working families, too. We have a lot of families that work within a one mile radius of Robin's Nest," said LaChapelle.

LaChapelle says as these real estate transactions have developed she was, at first, under the impression that Robin's Nest and several other nonprofits in the building would be able to stay. But she says that has changed and if sold, she fears they will be given the boot.

"That really is the looming concern here that if ultimately the agencies that are housed in this building were displaced. You have multiple agencies that are serving Burlington needs and resident needs being pushed out," LaChapelle said.

Part one of the real estate deal that was voted on Thursday will now be sent to the City Council for a vote this Monday. With so many unanswered questions about what will happen to the St. Joseph building, the board will pick the idea back up in a few months. The city is also considering selling the Ira Allen building on Colchester Ave. to UVM as well.

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