Results of survey on Memorial Auditorium's future released

Published: Aug. 28, 2018 at 5:33 PM EDT
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From concerts to boxing matches, Memorial Auditorium has been an entertainment venue in Burlington for decades.

"I've lived in town 30 years and Memorial is integral to anybody's experience in downtown as a resident," said James Lockridge of Burlington.

Now, it sits closed and falling apart. Built in 1928, the building was meant to honor veterans of World War I. It's been closed to the public since 2016.

Now, the city has released the results of a survey asking Burlingtonians what to do next.

"People have a lot of love for Memorial Auditorium. They want to see it put to good use for the future and they're willing to support it," said Neale Lunderville, the interim director of Burlington's Community and Economic Development Office.

The survey heard from more than 2,500 people who lived in the city or worked there. All respondents indicated they were most interested in a show and entertainment space, a civic and community meeting space, and a farmers market space.

James Lockridge took the survey. He says he would like to see more youth programs brought back to the auditorium. More than half of survey respondents said the same.

"I miss that the city would invest purposefully in its marginalized youth and trust in their creative instincts and give them a platform for growing into engaged young citizens," Lockridge said.

But there is still the question of money. The survey questions assumed the cost to be between $15 million and $25 million. Breaking that down into yearly tax increases, 79 percent of likely voters said they would definitely or probably support a tax increase of $110 per year for the renovations, equaling a $25 million bond. The operational costs for the renovated building could be several hundred thousand dollars per year, according to the survey. And 78 percent of likely voters said they would definitely or probably support the city subsidizing that bill.

"The mayor did a good job in scientifically validating the community's position," Lockridge said. "But it's now his job to give us faith that he shares those values."

City leaders still want to hear from the public. They will be holding a workshop Thursday in City Hall to expand on the survey results, including narrowing down the use of Memorial Auditorium and looking at rehabilitation options.

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