Burlington merchants concerned about loss of downtown mall
The loss of the downtown mall is a major concern for merchants on Church Street in Burlington. That's one of the highlights of the annual marketplace report.
Our Erin Brown dug through the report, which also mentions the challenges of public parking and retail. It says businesses have been struggling to keep up with online stores and they're losing traffic to their stores due to illegal and disturbing behaviors downtown. And the loss of the mall is proving to be a problem.
What's the state of the Church Street Marketplace? The city says, overall, it's good.
"We're always working with local businesses, restaurants to make sure they have the support they need from the city to thrive," said Lukas McGowan, the director of the Community and Economic Development Office.
In its annual report to the city, the Church Street Marketplace Commission highlights the growth of downtown this past year with the addition of six new businesses.
But there are some areas the commission says need improvement. According to the report, retailers are concerned about a drop in sales. The manager of Jess Boutique, Erin Brennan, says losing the Town Center Mall has made it harder to get people in the door.
"Without the mall here, there isn't as big a draw for a lot of our more local customers. Losing the Macy's, I think that was really attractive to a lot of our Canadian customers who would come down and go to the Macy's," she said.
Brennan also notes the challenge of bricks-and-mortar retailers everywhere-- competing with online retailers. In an effort to keep up, local stores are changing their tactics.
"Create more personalized experiences for our customers, reaching out to them individually, holding more smaller, intimate events," Brennan said.
Another hurdle related to the mall demolition is finding parking. Burlington Public Works Director Chapin Spencer says the city is working to replace a portion of the 500 parking spaces lost as we wait for the new development to be built.
"This project behind me was placed on top of a 40-space parking lot. Now, there are 53 public spaces. So when properties are redeveloped, we are working with developers to see how we would expand public parking," Spencer said.
Spencer also says the city anticipates the new development at CityPlace will restore or exceed the number of parking spaces that were previously there.