Burlington City Council unanimously approves CityPlace agreement

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 8:02 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The Burlington City Council Tuesday evening unanimously approved the settlement agreement between the city and the developer of CityPlace, a crucial step forward to begin construction.

Approval of the agreement has been looming nearly this entire month, but after some last-minute changes when it comes to union labor, councilors got on board. The agreement allows the project to move forward after years of delays, though it has been scaled-down, with mostly housing and some retail space.

The approval will guarantee construction on public improvements, which includes reconnecting Pine and St. Paul streets, which will begin sometime in the next two years.

New commitments have been negotiated to pay prevailing wages to construction workers and to use an inclusive hiring process. If there are no further delays, construction could begin this fall.

“This settlement agreement, people should understand, it does protect them. It protects their wallets and it means we are going to get the outcome we set out to get when we went down this path five years ago,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington.

He called the agreement a win for Burlington after its many ups and downs during his nine-year tenure.

The council unanimously approved the revised settlement agreement that resolves litigation surrounding the development of CityPlace and the public improvement projects.

City Council President Max Tracy, P-Ward 2, spoke about the long journey to get to this point.

“In terms of the city doing what it needs to do, I think this is, while not perfect, still an important step forward for the city of Burlington,” he said.

The agreement secures commitments from the developer to hire about 300-400 diverse, local construction workers with a focus on minorities, veterans and women, and it ensures they will be paid fairly.

“The hundreds of construction jobs that will be generated on CityPlace will be the type you can support a family on. It also evens the playing field for when our union contractors bid on aspects of a job we will be able to be competitive with that,” said David Van Deusen, the president of the Vermont AFL-CIO.

But, the developer still needs to secure all of the necessary financing. That could come from a federal program that works with state unions or from more traditional market-based financing. To make that process easier, the project has been scaled down to mostly housing units and some street-level retail. Not only is it a better fit for Burlington, according to officials, it also helps protect the project from being negatively impacted by the aftermath of the pandemic.

“I haven’t spent all this time and money for naught. I’ll get this financed, that’s my promise to the city and as I say, don’t listen to me, watch what I do and I’ll get the financing, that I can assure you,” said Don Sinex, the CityPlace majority owner.

Next Wednesday, the developers will be in front of Burlington’s Development Review Board with the revised plan to amend the existing zoning permit. Sinex says he hopes to get construction started this fall as long as they can secure the financing.

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