What’s next for nearly empty downtown Burlington mall space?
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The lease is up in October for the Starbucks on Burlington’s Church Street Marketplace, which means they will be the last tenants of BTC Mall Associates to leave the space. BTC, which is also the CityPlace developer, appealed to the Burlington City Council Monday to find some relief from fees they need to pay to be part of the Marketplace.
“COVID has taken a very weak retail situation and made it much worse,” said William Fellows of BTC Mall Associates. “We essentially are an empty mall and have little to no income. We are looking to see a million dollars in losses in this coming year and we are looking for relief.”
The total fees that each business pays to the marketplace come out to around $2.87 per square foot. For the large mall property that comes out to more than $71,000 per year.
“That’s a little over 10% of the common area fees they will be taking in for the fiscal year and it represents almost 8% of the total budget,” said Kara Alnaswari, the executive director of the Church Street Marketplace.
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said the city waived a full year of fees for all Church Street Marketplace ratepayers but it’s time to move back to full services now by reinstituting the fees.
The council denied the request for relief from the mall, saying that COVID impacts are something all businesses are facing right now.
“Unfortunately, everybody is in a difficult situation and by granting this, it would increase the burdens on all of the other fee-payers on the marketplace because the burden would have to be made up,” said Councilor Joan Shannon, D-South District.
For BTC, the hole that COVID has left them in will take a long time to dig out of, including finding new tenants to fill the mostly empty mall. However, Fellows says tenants have told them they can’t sustain being there because of labor and productivity issues.
“We run into situations where they are looking for leases and rents that are really unsupportable to the expenses of the mall,” Fellows said.
The council suggested BTC take their appeal for relief to the board of tax abatement.
Don Sinex, one of the developers involved with CityPlace and BTC Mall Associates, says that they hope Starbucks will at least stay with the mall temporarily after its lease expires in October. The Starbucks, while a tenant of the mall, operates independently since it has direct Church Street access.
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