I realize the Messenger deals with news of Franklin County - and statewide issues - but I can't help but register my concern over news that the City of Burlington appears to be on the losing end of its campaign to rebuild Church Street with the $120 million CityPlace project. This is terrible news for all of us in northern Vermont, and for the state. We now have a gargantuan hole in the middle of the state's largest city, right at the heart of our tourism and our economic lifeline. And from the news reports we don't really know what the problem is, what the barriers are, or who is in charge.
And although we're told it's not a casualty of the coronavirus, it's hard to believe it doesn't play a role. But what does that really mean? If the pandemic has made life ever more difficult for retailers, it's hard to see how this project meets its goal of attracting more retailers to Burlington's downtown.
But the big thing to me is that we tore something down that was good in the belief that we were going to replace it with something better. Four years plus later and we have nothing but a hole. And we don't even have the developers telling us it's just delayed. We don't really know anything.
I read that the City of Burlington is considering legal action against the developer, but that doesn't make me feel much better. The developer is one of the nation's largest, with good legal counsel, it can probably tie this up in the courts for years.
So now the city is perhaps back in cahoots with the original developer, Don Sinex, the person who misled the city from the outset? Oh, boy. Feeling better by the moment.
The problem, as I see it, is that we were on the path to a project that would have brought a lot more people to our part of the state, people who would buy things, people who would look at our economic strength and decide to move here. That includes Franklin County.
We're all hurt and it's hard to know what to do. But it's also an election year. Shouldn't this be an issue that is raised? As a state we're starved for new economic growth engines. We're starved for new people moving here. What are we doing about it? We need to ask and we need to push.