More housing projects on the way soon for South Burlington City Center
SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - More large housing projects are on the way soon for South Burlington’s downtown, joining other development already in the works.
The sounds of construction on Market Street in the city have been nonstop for years.
Right now, workers are raising up a big apartment building that will house workers for the UVM Medical Center once it’s open. It’s one of two recent projects tied to worker housing.
Across the street on both sides, the University of Vermont will also invest in housing, helping to finance nearly 300 units for its staff, too.
Those are on top of the Allard Square and Garden Street apartment buildings that have already gone up in recent years.
“Residential use is one of our priorities as a community,” South Burlington City Manager Jessie Baker said.
Baker says housing is a key part of their goal to create City Center in a city that hasn’t had one. But it’s been talked about for decades.
“I think historically the conversation in South Burlington has been where’s the ‘there’ there? Where’s the downtown, where’s the area where people can come to meet and shop and socialize and visit? And I think we’re really starting to see that build up around Market Street, the redevelopment of the University Mall, the investment of some of our institutional partners in City Center. We’re seeing that downtown realized, that place, that ‘there’ in the community,” she said.
Baker says the University Mall transformation isn’t too far off, and the developer is looking to maximize the development potential of the site.
“They’re looking to make it a more 24/7 live-work space. So both residential uses as well as maintaining the really successful retail that’s there, adding in some local Vermont color-- restaurants, entertainment options, things like that to really make it that driving downtown anchor,” Baker said.
She says she anticipates the mall’s new owners announcing plans for the redevelopment later this fall and pulling permits in the next year. And she says it will be the connection over to Market Street to create the downtown feel.
In the meantime, residents and visitors will have to continue to pardon their dust, as the saying goes, for several more years. Because while Garden Street has a street, the buildings still have to go up, including one on a lot across from Healthy Living that Baker says will have child care on the first floor and housing above.
“There will be a lot of construction downtown for the near future,” she said.
For those looking for reasons to visit beyond running errands, it will be a few more years before some of the new commercial space will be open. The new UVM buildings will have 30,000 square feet of commercial space that can hold restaurants, offices, shops and more.
A couple of residents we spoke with had ideas about what they would like to see.
“Some really nice women’s clothing stores, maybe shoe stores. Maybe a movie theater, ice cream shops, restaurants,” said Deborah McLellan of South Burlington.
“I would love to see some more facilities for kids,” said Andrea Torello of South Burlington. “And maybe some ethnic restaurants, like small ethnic restaurants.”
IS SOUTH BURLINGTON TIF DISTRICT PAYING OFF?
There is no set date for when the downtown will be “finished.” But the downtown development is part of the city’s tax increment financing or TIF district which goes until 2037. Through that, the city has borrowed on the tax revenues it’s expected to generate to pay for the infrastructure improvements needed to support large-scale development.
Voters can approve investments of $31.8 million total. They’ve done about half of that so far.
So what has the return been on that investment? The numbers show it’s been good so far.
The most recent state TIF report shows the original taxable value of that area was $35.4 million. Its current value is $50.1 million. That’s a 42% increase in taxable value, or $14.7 million.
What that translates to for taxes to the city is an extra $352,507 in the fiscal year 2021. But after the TIF is done in 2037, that’s expected to be an extra $7.2 million. And an 867% increase in the taxable value of that land, or $307 million.
South Burlington Community Development Director Ilona Blanchard says that’s exactly what they were hoping to see.
“It brought together so many stakeholders, so many resources and really allowed us to fund roads, this building that we’re standing in, a library, and so many other things that are in design and engineering,” Blanchard said.
Voters will get to weigh in again on the TIF district in the spring on Town Meeting Day. The city is looking to pass its last bond vote which it says is needed to complete the infrastructure needed to fully develop City Center. That includes the pedestrian bridge over Interstate 89, a streetscape on Williston Road, the next phase of Garden Street, and the boardwalk between City Center Park and Market and Garden streets.
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