Inside Burlington's massive downtown redevelopment project

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Say goodbye to the Burlington Town Center Mall as you have known it. A big chunk of it is about to be torn down in just a couple of weeks. We got a sneak peek at the early demolition and an update on this $225 million redevelopment project.

From the outside, you might not know it. But inside the Burlington Town Center Mall, history is happening.

"You're going to find a demolition zone where stores have been taken out," said Bill Heinz of the Burlington Town Center Mall.

Stores at the Church Street end are still open. But the middle of the mall is walled off. We were allowed beyond the barriers.

Reporter Kristin Kelly: Whole other world back here.
Bill Heinz: Whole other world.

It's dark, it's dusty and it's cold. The 60-70 crewmembers from PC construction still get the mall's holiday music piped in, though, while they work quickly pulling apart what used to be some big name retailers.

Williams Sonoma is gone. Loft is a shell. The two floors where Pottery Barn, American Eagle Outfitters and Abercrombie used to be are all opened up. Crews are pulling apart the interior and sorting the materials for recycling. Getting everything out before the walls are pulled down.

Kristin Kelly: Did you ever think you would be at this stage?
Don Sinex/City Place Developer: Yeah, sure. You wouldn't start if you didn't think you'd get to this point, but it's been a... it's been a long process.

Sinex is the owner and developer of what will be called City Place. He's been working to get construction started for three years.

"It will take us 18 months to open the project from the time we start the structural demolition," Sinex said.

The plan calls for tearing down the middle of the existing mall and the parking garage. That's to make room for a 14-story building with retail, office and residential space. The new garage will nearly double the number of parking spots. St. Paul Street and Pine Street-- which have been cut off by the mall for decades-- will be reopened to traffic.

"Everything will be done from the street," Sinex said.

He says it won't feel like visiting a mall. When you visit businesses there, you will go from the sidewalk into the store and back out to the sidewalk, like you'd do in any downtown.

"It's an urban project replacing the suburban project that was in the middle of the city," Sinex explained.

And if you're looking for all the same retailers to come back, you might be out of luck.

Kristin Kelly: What kind of stores are we going to see?
Don Sinex: Well, you know, we'll see what the retail market holds for us but I think we can guess it's going to be different.

He says retailers everywhere are struggling. And the style of this project with offices and more than 270 units of housing means you need some other kinds of businesses. So along with some retailers, think drugstore, dry cleaner and grocery store.

"That's the nature of an urban site," Sinex said. "Everything is convenient on site."

But there is still a lot of work and inconvenience ahead. And during the whole building process, Macy's at one end and the part of the mall near Church Street west to L.L. Bean are staying put.

"We're open!" Sinex said.

The part of the mall that is staying open during the big redevelopment project will eventually be redone, too. In the meantime, the construction is expected to create some headaches with traffic, parking and noise downtown. Sinex says if people see problems, there will be numbers posted at the construction site to report them.