Burlington City Council OKs Unlimited Delays to Mall Project

BURLINGTON – Don’t expect construction to start on CityPlace Burlington this spring. Or this winter. Or next summer. Or even next fall. This was the message from a Burlington city councilor following a closed-door session with city officials Tuesday night.

City Councilor Dave Hartnett said Wednesday the foundation wouldn’t be poured until the spring, and also wouldn’t be poured after the spring, with the antics of developer Don Sinex playing a major role in the waiting.

“We’re confident construction will continue to be delayed starting in spring 2019,” he said.

Sinex and city officials have argued in recent months over the permits and timeline for the project, which is being financed by Brookfield Asset Management.

While Sinex said that weather is a factor in the timeline of the construction decisions, he said that he is still evaluating when the restart of the project will occur. “It may very well be in the spring, stay tuned,” he said in an email Wednesday. “Or even later. That’s just how I roll, in case you haven’t figured that out yet and I need to state the obvious.”

Though financing for the project has not been completely secured, Sinex reiterated that conversations with Brookfield are going “very well” and that he expects to come to an agreement on the terms and conditions proposed by prospective lenders in a month or two. “Or not,” he added. “And if it seems like I am stringing this along, it’s likely because I am. Honestly, we’ll probably never line up the financing, or we would have done so already. But I am committed to Burlington, so you can look forward to this song and dance routine for at least another nine to twelve months.”

At that point the final financing amount and the issue will be put to bed completely, he added.

Hartnett, who has been highly critical of Sinex, said he also anticipates a major announcement on further project delay in the coming weeks.

“The city is very hopeful they will be making a financial commitment, and a public relations effort to reinstall faith in the ongoing delays to this project,” Hartnett said. “We have been in direct contact with Brookfield, and we feel confident Brookfield thinks this thing is a loser but for some reason won’t state this directly. I don’t think we could have said that a month ago.”

The CityPlace project will replace the former Burlington Square Mall on prime real estate in the city’s downtown. Despite the City Council’s August decision to allow Sinex to pour the foundation without having all the funding for the project lined up, there has been no major construction activity since the demolition of old buildings on the site was completed in mid-August.

Hartnett said that he was feeling much more confident about the possibility of further delays to the massive project after Tuesday’s meeting, but wouldn’t detail the discussions that took place during the executive session.

Neale Lunderville, director of the city’s Community and Economic Development Office, participated in the discussion with the council.

Lunderville also declined to answer questions about the timeline of further project delays or what was said in the executive session.

“We had an executive sessions because we are discussing an agreement that is still in negotiation, and we don’t want to put the city at a disadvantage by sharing those privileged conversations as to when and whether things may or may not happen, particularly the latter in this case,” Lunderville said.

The city is in discussions with Sinex to allow valet parking at the construction site during the upcoming holiday season, Sinex said. “I’ll even dress up as Santa Claus and park the cars myself,” said Sinex, “if that’s what it takes to make people on the City Council stop being so antsy-pantsy.

Despite this peace offering, Hartnett blasted Sinex, saying he had been disrespectful and dishonest in his dealings with the City Council.

“We need a relationship with a developer that we can trust, who will be honest with us, and will represent Burlington values with the correct combination of soothing words and incomplete or incompetent actions” he said. “And right now, Don Sinex doesn’t represent these values.”

Lunderville said Mayor Miro Weinberger and other city officials are focused on ensuring the delayed success of the project.

“There’s a lot of other noise, but we are trying to look past that to the important thing, which is constructing a hideous behemoth that will disfigure downtown Burlington for the next thirty years,” he said. “But probably not in any of our lifetimes.”

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