Burlington Moves To Demolish Unused Power Plant On Lake Champlain Waterfront

Sep 5, 2017

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger has announced that the city is ceasing redevelopment discussions for an obsolete power plant on the waterfront and will now look at demolition.  The decision comes more than three years after voters approved financing to create a plan for the site.

In 1957 the Moran Municipal Generating Station began generating electricity for the city of Burlington, first utilizing coal and eventually changing to wood.  In 1982, it shut down. Ownership was transferred to the city in 1986.  Since then a number of unsuccessful proposals have been made to redevelop the building.  In 2014 voters approved a ballot measure that authorized city officials to work with developers New Moran Incorporated on a redevelopment plan.  It would be a final attempt and if unsuccessful, the city would use the Tax Increment Financing for demolition of the Moran Plant.

On Friday, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger announced discussions had ceased and released an initial report outlining options for deconstruction.

Ward 4 City Councilor Kurt Wright would prefer to see the building redeveloped, but in recent months foresaw this conclusion.  “I’m disappointed because I would rather I would prefer to have redevelop the building.  But we have to live up to the word that we gave to the people of Burlington when this was voted on. And the spirit of that was that if this didn’t work, this development proposal, that the building was going to be torn down.  That it couldn’t just drag on forever. That there were benchmarks and timelines that had to be met and you know we’ve already missed a number of those.  We went the extra mile to see if this could work.  I think everybody on the council and the administration wanted to see this redevelopment happen. But in the end we need to follow through on what we told the voters that there would be resolution on this.”

Burlington Business Association Executive Director Kelly Devine says the community has long sought creative reuse of the building.  “One of the reasons to hold onto the building or to try to come up with an adaptive reuse of it is because it’s right next to the lake, it has some vertical formation to it which makes it interesting for a creative redevelopment project.  That would have been a good outcome for the community of Burlington.  The fact is with development today and state regulation when you build near the lake you actually are required to build, you know at a fairly far distance back. Now there is several interesting things going on at that north end of the waterfront and I think we need to look at that site in terms of what it can add to the north end of the waterfront.”

Devine reviews a number of considerations for the Moran site redevelopment, noting that the main challenge for the Burlington waterfront is the seasonality of the business cycle.   “We are always looking at uses in that northern end of the waterfront that are going to bring people down to the waterfront year round. Right now we have a skatepark, we have the sailing center, we have a marina. Those are all pretty seasonal uses. So if the building is demolished and it’s returned to greenspace my members, particularly my waterfront action group members, would say that isn’t the best outcome for the city because we have a lot of park space.  So ideally we’d be hoping that the city would consider in its site resolution plan some other redevelopment option.  But those would in all likelihood involve a new building.”  

The Community and Economic Development Office Moran Plant Demolition Report is on the city of Burlington’s website.