Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In front of the Planning Commission

Last night, at the Planning Commission meeting, Dan Bradley from the Public Works Department did a low-key presentation to the commission. From the commission's agenda:

Dan Bradley from the Department of Public Works will provide information to the Commission regarding the site selection process for a Downtown Transit Center and discuss the preferred site at 59 Pearl Street.

The bold emphasis in that last paragraph is mine. The St. Paul St.location was not discussed at all. Some of the commissioners had questions, but they did not seem to be aware that this was more than a couple of stories. The architectural drawing was not in their packets.

I spoke briefly at the beginning of the meeting, during the public comments section. I stated that I was a neighbor, and that the residents around this preferred site were very very concerned - noise, pollution, safety etc. I also stated that there is a petition that will be presented to both the City Council and the Planning Commission at a future date.

That petition was created by a resident of Champlain Apartments and can be found by residents there or at the Radio Deli for folks to read and sign if they want.

A couple of interesting things from this meeting.

Mr. Bradley gave the impression that the state is really aboard with this project, and that there's just a few things to iron out about the ownership of the property. "There's some confusion on the ownership," he said briefly after stating how a Building and Services official is the one who proposed this as a great site in the first place.

From my research it is not Building and Services that owns this building and that there are many things that need to be discussed with the Department of Labor about the legalities here. I have the impression that the city has had only minimal communication with the Dept of Labor so far, but that a meeting is set up soon. I wonder why it's gotten this far without really talking with the people who actually own the building?

Another thing is that the commissioners really did not get the impact of this being a multi-story (six or more) building with a parking garage underneath. Mr. Bradley did state that a one level parking structure could be created by using a right of way from the state in the somewhat tiny drive from Cherry St next to the Dept of Probation and Parole.

Lastly, the impression from the meeting last night is that the offices on top of the transit center (bus depot) would be filled by displaced state workers - maybe even CCV. That's the first I heard of that. Every other meeting had this as being some "future partnership" of still to be determined origin. The potential of a CCV partnership was brought up by a Planning Commission member, not Dan Bradley.

Now I'm all for trying to keep CCV in Burlington - I teach there. I do not, however, want bad development promoted by dangling the possibility of keeping CCV in town. Interestly, this happened at the end of the meeting too, where there was an update on why the affordable housing has not been built behind the brick block - er the Westlake development. The developer is going to ask to have the loft building - which has not been built yet - be all commercial and office instead of the affordable housing. (They would put the affordable housing elsewhere or pay in lieu of fees). One possibility that was mentioned might go there is CCV. I don't think it's really in CCV's philosophy to go to a location that pushed out affordable housing - that which would be used by many of the students and staff. I have no idea where CCV stands on this officially, but I'd love to find out.

Lastly, and this is related to Westlake again, the developer is unable to provide a 10 million dollar bond for the city to guarantee that the Loft project will be built. They say they can't afford the bond. (Oh yeah, and there's really nine stories to that building instead of the eight they proposed. Something about that top story really being the roofline....)

Overall, an interesting meeting. Be sure to educate yourself and make your own decisions on this project.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Files from August 7th public meeting

A public meeting was held at City Hall on August 7th to present the transit center ideas to the public. At the meeting I asked if the visuals presented would be available in electronic format. I was told yes and the next day received an email stating that the files were available, but really big. I requested them on cd and received them that day.

Note: the original files on the cd were so large that they'd be virtually impossible to download from the Internet. Please learn how to use your software folks! I sized them all down from their 16000 wide pixels to a reasonable (though still somewhat large) file size.

Here's the files I received. All except one of them were presented at the August 7th meeting. You can click on any of them to get a larger picture

The above chart is the rating sytem used to pick out the top locations for "further study." Personally I questioned how these criteria were rated, and several people at the meeting also questioned specific criteria.

The Central Business District is identified in the blue lines. The top six sites are in yellow. Note that four of them are directly in our neighborhood.

This is an aerial shot of the sites.

This is what CCTA would like for their transfer station.

The above two pictures are what was presented for DET preliminary plans. The first is a series of pictures aroudn the site and the second is pretty self explanatory. Note that the building identified as "Radio Deli, Leonardo's Pizza, Doughboy's Bakery" is also a multi-unit residential building. I live there. I asked at the public meeting that this be added to the graphic. I hope it is in future iterations.

The above graphic was not presented at the August 7th meeting. I'm not sure why. It was included in the files I received. It appears to be an architectural drawing of the bus station with an office building on top. I count at least six stories, including the bus station and the atrium skylight on top. I'm not sure if it's to scale. I wish there were dimensions on it. The building to the left of this is the Omnium building, which is highly residential and historic.

The two pictures above are for the St. Paul Street location. This location would use the existing street and build a small indoor station on the corner of Cherry and St. Paul. The busses would line the street. St. Paul Street would be closed to all other traffic other than people going in and out of the state parking garage.

There was no architectural drawing of this plan (as there is of the DET plan).

The above is the schedule of events planned to make this happen. Note that this is going to happen fast - as far as developments go. If you live in this neighborhood, now is the time to get involved.

Please note there are meeting notes which have been published of the 8/7 meeting. I am not uploading them here as I was misquoted in them and have requested a correction. You can view them on the city's website if you desire, or email me for a copy and I will gladly send it to you.

Why this blog

The purpose of this blog is communicate within the neighborhood of Lower Pearl Street and surrounding areas in Burlington, Vermont.

We are a neighborhood, which may come as a surprise to some. Specifically, I've started this blog as a way to post some details about the proposed bus transfer station . It came as a big surprise to everyone I spoke with that the #1 desired location for this new terminal is smack dab in our neighborhood.

Specifically, the DET (Department of Employment and Training) building on Pearl Street would be torn down, a bus "transit center" built in its place. Future possibilities would include an office building on top of the transfer station.

Please voice your opinions on this major neighborhood development.