Today’s ribbon cutting celebrated of the completion of Waterfront Access North (WAN) projects that began in August 2014, and marks the first major new waterfront public infrastructure investment since the creation of Waterfront Park in the early 1990s. It’s a major step in the decades-long effort to reclaim the waterfront from its post-industrial history and convert it to modern use. As Mayor Miro Weinberger says, the area has begun a rebirth “from a post-industrial lake shore to a 21st Century waterfront.”
Mayor Miro Weinberger today was joined by Senator Patrick Leahy, Governor Peter Shumlin, former Governor Howard Dean, BPRW Director Jesse Bridges other State and City officials, and waterfront stakeholders.
Construction of the WAN project and includes the following key improvements:
- Realignment, widening, and rebuilding of the decayed and disjointed section of the Burlington bike path immediately north of Waterfront Park to better accommodate path users and other activities on the northern waterfront;
- Remediation of environmental issues related to the site’s historic industrial use;
- Undergrounding overhead power lines; and
- Implementation of stormwater measures to provide new environmental protections for Lake Champlain, including the creation of gravel wetlands.
The highlight of the project is obviously the new world-class skate park, which by default had a soft opening today. It seems as is hundreds of skaters of all abilities came to ride on the new features.
Not only does the site offer more access waterfront activities, the project lays and important foundation for future uses of the northern waterfront and access to Urban Reserve including a new Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center facility, New Moran, and the Burlington Harbor Marina.
These “improvements we celebrate today set the stage for continued revitalization of this tremendous asset,” said Senator Patrick Leahy.
Congressman Peter Welch, who also was unable to attend the event, added his congratulations, “for another important milestone in the development of the City’s waterfront. These infrastructure improvements are good news for bike path users, skaters, and sailors and will help the City realize its vision of access for all to the Lake Champlain waterfront.”
Governor Peter Shumlin adds, “this investment will make it better and more accessible for Vermonters and tourists alike. It’s good for jobs, the economy, and our state’s unrivaled quality of life.”
Even Senator Bernie Sanders, sent his thoughts on the new development: “I am very pleased that the City has completed another important step to reclaim Burlington’s waterfront for the people of Vermont, an effort that I am proud began while I was Mayor of Burlington. We have come a very long way since then – when the downtown waterfront was filled with oil tanks, railyards, and abandoned buildings.”
WAN represents a $9.1 million investment in Burlington’s waterfront with more than 20 different funding sources large and small, including contributions from Burton Snowboards and individual community members toward the skatepark.
Of the $9.1 million, $3.9 million came from tax increment financing (TIF) funds, voted for by Burlingtonians in 2012 and 2014 and generated from waterfront TIF district revenues. Approximately $4 million of the project was paid for by federal funding sources, supported by the members of Vermont’s federal delegation. The Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission contributed just under $100,000 in EPA brownfields assessment grant funding to the City, toward cleanup planning and soil assessment during redevelopment on the Waterfront North parcel. Only $329,000 was paid for by non-TIF, local property taxes, including $150,000 from the Penny for Parks fund.
So, what’s next for the waterfront?
Construction along the northern waterfront will continue in the upcoming years. BPRW has plans to rebuild the entire eight mile long Burlington bike path with anticipated construction on the path from WAN to North Beach in the 2016.