As suburban shopping options were sprouting up, early planners realized that if Burlington was to remain the regional center of commerce, the city had to create something special. They believed that an economically diverse and strong city center translated into a strong sense of community and regional identity. Other values included a desire to put pedestrians (instead of vehicles) in the foreground and to create a clean, safe, beautiful, multi-dimensional space and showpiece in the heart of downtown. The site was chosen, in part, because of its strategic downtown position and proximity to waterfront activities and celebrated arts-and-entertainment venues like the historic Flynn Theater. The Marketplace is within easy walking distance of residents of most of the older neighborhoods of Burlington and within cycling distance of the whole city. Its north-south axis also provides bright sun at midday; in many climates this orientation would be detrimental, but in the far north it acts to extend the outdoor season far beyond what would be possible in a shadier site.
Since 1981. Thanks to careful planning and ongoing community support, more than three-million people (five-times the population of Vermont) visit annually to shop, dine or just wander.
The expanse of pedestrian space on the Marketplace allows the full range of Burlington’s residents and visitors to mix in a true community. It features fountains at two locations, extensive brick paving with granite accents, and numerous sculptures, as well as its own distinctive feature: locally quarried boulders placed on two blocks, which offer unique seating and climbing opportunities. Of particular interest is the Church Street Earth Line, a unique brick and granite band of engraved stones with proportionally separated world city locations running north-south up the center of the street, giving visitors a quick and engaging geography lesson.
The Marketplace’s Victorian and Art Deco structures are complemented by modern infill buildings, the height of which is restricted to preserve the appearance of historic structures. Zoning promotes both ground-floor retail and upper-story office and residential uses.
Nearly two-dozen cafes with outdoor dining line its four blocks (and despite Burlington’s harsh climate, they remain open throughout much of the year). The dining options range from street vendor staples like hot dogs and unconventional street fare like crepes and dumplings to indoor dining in sushi bars, steakhouses, pubs, and a variety of other restaurants. The cart vendor program offers entrepreneurs just starting out with an opportunity to start and grow a small business on Vermont’s busiest street (The Vermont Teddy Bear company began in the Marketplace’s cart vendor program).
The Marketplace also auditions more than 150 street entertainers each year, from singers and musicians to magicians and jugglers. Non-profit tabling is welcomed, and organizations of all types take advantage of promoting their causes here.
Church Street has always been the region’s commercial and community center, and after the Marketplace’s four blocks were converted to pedestrian mall in 1981, the newly created public space quickly became the region’s town center. It is the location for the region’s most popular events, including the Discover Jazz Festival, Key Bank Vermont City Marathon, and First Night Burlington. It is a frequent location for evening television newscasts, a popular destination for celebrities vacationing in Vermont, and a site for political figures to make major announcements. Church Street is the destination for celebrating a birth, a marriage, or graduation, to participate in a protest, people-watch, or just shop, dine or explore.
The Marketplace and downtown Burlington are the recipients of a $6,000,000 award from the US. Dept of Transportation under the SAFETEA LU program. These funds will be used to make improvements to a key alleyway that connects the Marketplace to a major parking garage, to upgrade the electrical infrastructure, improve crossings with the side streets to the Marketplace, increase connectivity to the waterfront, and to extend the concepts of pedestrian oriented design to the adjacent side streets.
The challenge for planners will be to protect the remaining historic fabric (on the blocks not affected by urban renewal), while improvements are being made.
The Marketplace has been designated a business improvement district since its start in 1981, and the importance of the business improvement district status cannot be underestimated. The Marketplace has been able to establish and promote a brand that has gained national recognition for its combination of commerce, recreation, and community; without the cohesiveness of the district and the BID fees paid by the members, it would have been impossible to develop the district once the physical improvements were complete.
The Marketplace has worked with All-Cycle (a local trash and recycling hauler) and the Chittenden Solid Waste District to implement a mixed recycling program. To that end, designated recycling containers have been placed alongside rubbish containers to permit recycling of almost all non-food wastes. We also use an electric truck to haul materials, refuse, and recycling. A number of our restaruants are also part of the Vermont Fresh Network, a farm to table organization promoting locally grown foods.
We use locally manufactured brick for pavers, recycle damaged brick into gravel products, have a extended food waste composting program to include all restaurants, encouraged merchants to participate in electric utility energy conservation programs, and have better managed storm water runoff with measures like rain gardens.
There are numerous annual events on the Marketplace. These include:
Church Street Marketplace has its own staff to remove trash and recycling, complete minor repairs, remove graffiti, and oversee daily operations. Vigilant attention is maintained to keep the heavily used area in attractive condition and maintain a high standard of appearance. Security is provided by the Burlington Police Department.
The marketplace is actually the biggest hub for the Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) (www.cctaride.org), the city’s public bus system. Amtrak does not currently serve Burlington (the nearest stop is Essex Junction), but the city maintains a stop served by the Green Mountain Railroad’s Champlain Valley flyer (http://rails-vt.com), with service from Burlington to Charlotte, VT.
Downtown Burlington has over 4,000 parking spaces available to the public (though they fill up quickly in the afternoons and evenings, and pretty much all day during the weekends), but space is usually available in a number of covered garages, and the first two hours are free in the city-owned garages (Marketplace, Lakeview/Macy’s, and College Street /Hilton). Download our Parking brochure.
Pets are free to walk with you on the Marketplace; policies vary from store to store, however.
Store and restaurant hours vary, but stores typically open at 10:00. The adjoining Burlington Town Center's hours are 10:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1:00 - 6:00 p.m. on Sunday. Last call can vary as well, but a number of pubs serve until 2:00 a.m.
The Marketplace was designed as a pedestrian mall. It is just a short bike ride away from most of downtown Burlington, and ample bike racks are provided for parking, but bicycle riding (or skateboarding) in the public space itself is not allowed.
Overwhelmingly, yes. There are a few historic buildings which do no offer direct access, but any store or restaurant within them can make access available with just a bit of notice. A quick call in advance will make certain of this.
Contact the Church Street Marketplace at 2 Church Street, Suite 2A Burlington, VT 05401, or call 802-865-7252.
Yes, please visit our Accomodations page for more information.
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