Burlington’s long-stalled CityPlace project clears another big legal battle

Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 5:54 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Construction on CityPlace at the pit in downtown Burlington is another step closer to becoming a reality.

The long-vacated site could see some activity within a month now that the key final legal hurdle is in the process of being cleared. Through a lengthy court process this summer, a lawsuit will now be dropped, clearing the way for 400 units of housing and 40,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

“I think it means complete revitalization. It’s exciting to see Burlington bring more people downtown and fill that absolutely horrid hole,” said Arlene Moore of South Burlington.

People out in Burlington Wednesday were excited about the news the lawsuit is being dismissed.

We reported in May the new owners of CityPlace were Vermonters Dave Farrington, Al Senecal and Scott Ireland. It was believed that change in ownership would clear the way for financing, but a lawsuit tied to former owner Don Sinex held up the process.

“We’re just really happy that it’s over. I mean it’s been exhausting, it’s really been exhausting,” Attorney John Franco said.

Franco brought the lawsuit which was over parking. He says he believes CityPlace will be good for Burlington, especially the 80 units of affordable housing which will be operated by the Champlain Housing Trust.

Now, he’s in the process of getting the lawsuit dismissed.

“We were finding it impossible to police their compliance with our old agreement, and then they were accusing us of violating our old agreement. And we just got to the point where we said we don’t want to live like this, we want to move on with life and we want to tear up the old agreement and make a new agreement and get out of it. And that’s what we ended up doing,” Franco said.

Out in Burlington Wednesday, people were cautiously optimistic about the future of the project. But most were excited.

“We’ve always enjoyed walking through the mall to get up to Church Street and we are looking forward to another place to visit and enjoy in Burlington,” said Terry Moore of South Burlington.

“I think to make Burlington a more engaging landscape for people to come and bring families and have it be a positive space, it’s only a good thing for this town. Clearly, there’s some struggles and some challenges we are going through now to have this addressed I think is only going to be a good thing for us,” said Tomy Szczypiorski of Burlington.

The prospect of connecting Pine and St. Paul streets has people happy, as well.

“I was just thinking when I was on my way up here, should I go that way around the mess? Should I go this way around the mess? So that’ll be good to have a place to cut through,” said Danny Phillips of Burlington.

One of the three new owners, developer Dave Farrington, says they have already secured some financing and are working with the city for all the necessary permits. However, this key lawsuit needed to go away before any work could begin.

“Nobody wants to finance any piece of this knowing there could be some lawsuit with some decision that’s out of your control, so it’s a really good thing all around. It’s going to speed up things,” Farrington said.

Farrington says they expect to have site work begin in a month, which will continue through the fall and winter as they secure the rest of their financing. So work will be starting soon.

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