If you have opinions on or a vested interest in Burlington's downtown, pull out your calendar and book Wednesday, Oct. 25 at 5:30 p.m. The Burlington Public Library is the place to be for a "community workshop" on the future of downtown.
Burlington has a $200,000 brownfield planning grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. The grant will be used to put together a long term plan for downtown brownfields.
Brownfields are difficult to develop areas. They have potential due to their locations or other characteristics, but past occupants or circumstances have left them with varying degrees of hazardous environmental problems. Like, say, an old industrial site that abandoned ship after years of dumping chemicals into the land.
Two sites are already picked as strong candidates, but the consultants working on the plan are open to changes or adding a third. The two picked already are the former Dresser Rand site by the 1100 block of Washington Street and the old Typewriter shop on the 300 block of Washington.
Mike Fisher, one of the consultants and the vice president of Impact7G, said Burlington has "the bones" for an attractive downtown that draws people.
What the planners want are local ideas about what problems and needs exist downtown. They want big ideas that could turn Burlington into a place to visit.
Once viability research is done, their plan should guide City Council decision making in the future with set priorities and ideas on how to achieve what the community dreams up.
Thursday, a joint meeting between the City Council, brownfield consultants, the city planning commission and city staff started the conversation. They went over various population, market and housing data together and brainstormed.
Here's some of the things already discussed by various present parties:
•Downtown will need a small grocery store as the population grows. Possibly more of specialty shop with local or organic foods.
•Maybe the Memorial Auditorium ought to be replaced. Tear it down, replace it with a riverfront Memorial Amphitheater with the annual deficit cut out, and partner with the school district to build a joint custody venue somewhere else that could host events currently at the auditorium.
•Turn something into a "boutique hotel." Some big developers in town are already working on it. The group heard from one directly, and saw mockups of a block-sized hotel sponsored by The Drake.
•Turn the Dresser Rand site into a park, a dog park, a publicly available greenhouse space, an urban forest, a railway museum and other ideas.
•Do something new with the soon-to-be unused Burlington Police Station.
Whatever winds up in the plan, the theory goes that the spaces would become catalysts for more improvements. The items picked will be limited by the reality of the area, spaces available and finances.
More information on the brownfields program is at www.burlingtonbrownfields.com/area-wide-planning.