After months of silence, the developers of Burlington's downtown mall have released new preliminary plans for the CityPlace project. The major changes include reducing the maximum height of the project from 14 stories to 10 stories and adding a 175-room hotel.
Representatives from Brookfield Properties presented the new designs during Monday night's Burlington City Council meeting.
In this new iteration, the CityPlace project is spread out over three blocks in the downtown and uses the former Macy's building, which was not part of the original redevelopment plan.
The project still includes a mix of parking, retail and office space and is expected to have between 280 and 300 housing units — the same as the original plan, said Aanen Olsen, vice president of mixed-use development at Brookfield Properties.
"Our plan over the next two months is to kind of advance the design to a point where we can start the public approval process, we can negotiate with our tenants and, you know, try to be under construction next year," Olsen said Monday.
Olsen declined to provide a cost estimate for new proposal, but told reporters after the council meeting that Brookfield would eventually release that information.
The CityPlace Burlington construction site has been idle for more than a year, leaving a massive hole in the city's commercial district. Earlier this summer, Brookfield announced it would be scaling back the project, but until Monday's meeting they'd released scant details to the public.
When asked what could further delay the project, Olsen gave three examples: regulatory hurdles in the public approval process, delays in leasing and legal challenges.
There's currently a lawsuit in state court that alleges developers changed the amount of parking in the project and violated the terms of a settlement to a previous lawsuit. John Franco, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the case, said he was encouraged by Brookfield's presentation.
"I gotta tell you, this doesn't have half the warts the old one has," Franco said. "I think this concept is a pretty good one — so I'm optimistic. … For my clients, this is a huge step forward."
More from VPR — A Timeline Of Burlington's CityPlace Project
Many Burlington councilors praised the new proposal during last night's council meeting, though some expressed concerns over the amount of parking and the addition of a hotel.
Councilor Karen Paul, a Democrat, said she was pleased that the height had been reduced: "The project needed to be more in-line with skyline of Burlington, and I think that you have done that."
But Councilor Max Tracy, a Progressive and longtime critic of the project, offered a more cautious take.
"I view this as one among many steps that you need to take in order to restore trust in this community," Tracy said, "because it's really been at a real low point."
Mayor Miro Weinberger, once a champion of the original project, has recently adopted a tougher stance toward the developers. Earlier this month, he sent Brookfield a letter demanding they take specific steps to get the project back on track.
After Brookfield's presentation Monday, Weinberger expressed some optimism that redevelopment was moving in the right direction.
"You've started to turn the direction of the project around," Weinberger said. "I think there's a lot more work to do in the couple months ahead to get this project back on track. Certainly the administration will continue to do everything we can to assist you in that effort."