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New Burlington Town Center Mall owners want to charge for parkin - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

New Burlington Town Center Mall owners want to charge for parking

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Free parking is on the chopping block for a popular Queen City garage. Right now the first two hours are free at the Burlington Town Center Mall, but shoppers may soon have to shell out cash for a spot.

The change is a part of a vision to redevelop the mall downtown. The plans include a new national anchor tenant and millions in new construction, but some shoppers say without the free parking they won't be coming downtown.

“It's free for the first two hours, so that helps a lot. It encourages me to come downtown spend my money,” said Burlington resident James Angell.

Angell says he and his friends enjoy shopping at the Burlington Town Center Mall, especially because of the free parking.

“I mean it’s right at the mall so you can literally walk from your car to the mall. And it's free,” said Shannon Tremblay of Burlington.

But new mall ownership means big changes coming to the mall downtown. Developers say they are investing about $3 million to build a space for a new national anchor tenant in the mall. Owners are also looking to pull the plug on the free parking. An agreement between the mall and the city requires two hours of free parking at the garage.

"The long-term consequences of this arrangement have inhibited the mall from making much needed repairs into that garage,” said Nathan Wildfire of the Burlington community and economic development office.

A new proposal in front of the City Council means drivers will have to pay up. Developers say the new revenues will be used to make the garage cleaner, safer and, maybe one day, bigger.

"Yet, 75 percent of the people that use the garage don't pay anything. Now how long can any business stay in business if 75 percent of the customers don't pay anything for the services? It's very, very difficult,” said Burlington Town Center Mall co-owner Don Sinex.

Some city councilors raised concerns about a hit these new fees could have on traffic in the stores.

"I think people have become accustomed to that happening, and I had a couple of people who actually told me that they go down there -- and they may not come anymore if they lose that,” said Kurt Wright said, R-Burlington City Council.

Mall owners say if passed, they will be monitoring changes in parking garage numbers. But some shoppers say they will most likely take their business elsewhere.

"Oh absolutely. If you don't have much of an incentive then why would I come down there? I would just go someplace else,” said Angell.

The proposal is slated to be voted on by the City Council in the next few weeks. If passed, it will be up to the new owners to set a price tag for parking in the garage.

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