General Comments


This information was adapted from a report prepared by Phillippos J. Loukissas and Stuart H. Mann, Community Studies Program, The Pennsylvania State University. The report was prepared for the Office of Management, Research, and Transit services, Urban Mass Transportation Administration, Washington, D.C. Please view the full

Many factors have contributed to the successful implementation of the Marketplace. An important factor is considered to be the size of the city and its relations to the state. Though Burlington is a small city, it has a strong economic base and it is the largest urban center in a small rural state. This provides it with a great deal of political power and influence in state and federal affairs. The CBD, the focus of an expanding metropolitan area, had a healthy retail district even before the Marketplace was built. In this situation Burlington's small size worked to the City's advantage by facilitating interpersonal relations. This is demonstrated in the anecdote about construction workers becoming local folk heroes.

Strong leaders in both the public arena and the merchant community were largely responsible for maintaining support and progress toward implementation. Locally, Mayor Paquette was in office over the period from conception of the Marketplace through construction. He made the project a high priority in his administration, was able to persuade the Board of Aldermen about the merit of the project and to gain public confidence especially on passage of the bond issue to insure the necessary local funds. Additionally, his positive relationship with Senator Leahy helped gain needed support in Washington.

 

In the merchant community, Patrick Robins, a charismatic person, appears to have been the driving force behind the development. As head of the Downtown Burlington Development Association, he was able to gain the other merchants' support for the Marketplace over a period of ten years. It all started as an experimental street fair. As a member of the Redevelopment Authority, he demonstrated foresight in the early planning of the Church Street Marketplace and saw both the practicality and financial implications of the Marketplace as part of the urban renewal project. As chairman of the Church Street Steering Committee, he opened the Church Street mail to public debate and showed flexibility and openness to public opinion, thus ensuring public support for final implementation. He also worked well with the other committees and agencies and established good relations with federal funding agencies, especially the Boston UMTA office. The hiring of Truex, a local architect, for the preliminary design work may have facilitated the overall project implementation. Truex, who had previously served as the chairman of the Planning Commission, had a good understanding of the local problems and worked well with Robins. His twolevel design, though it proved unfeasible, provided the necessary excitement and enthusiasm that motivated the participants.

At the federal level, Senator Leahy (D) Vermont provided the necessary assistance and connections with the various federal agencies. Support also came from the head of the executive branch of the federal government when President Carter actively showed his willingness to help Burlington.

Close cooperation and coordination of all local committees and the transit and renewal authorities were crucial to the successful implementation of the mail. Involvement of the transit authority was among the most important factors since UMTA was currently working with the authority, and avenues of funding for the Marketplace were opened by the inclusion of a transit component in the plans. The renewal authority's involvement was helpful in tying the Church Street mail to the urban renewal development project land and in providing new parking facilities on the perimeter of the Marketplace.

The creation of the Church Street Marketplace Commission for construction, operation and maintenance proved to facilitate the Marketplace development. The Commission decided wisely to hire a construction consultant to manage all aspects of construction who was able to complete construction ahead of schedule and under budget. The Commission also worked closely with the merchants along Church Street, and through promotion and advertising, successfully demonstrated that the decline of retail sales during construction can be minimized. The responsibilities of the Commission for maintenance and operation helped to ensure the smooth operation and continued success, of the mall, The fact that Penrose Gearin, the Commission's administrator, was involved in the early planning phases of the project had a positive influence as well.

One should not conclude that Burlington faced fewer obstacles along the road to implementation than other cities. Consensus on an acceptable design was not reached easily, the final plan represented a compromise in terms of auto restriction. But in spite of their problems, they persevered and were able to solve their problems creatively.

Finally, exogenous events such as the announcement of the proposed Pyramid Mall in a nearby suburban area in 1976 played a very critical role in the project. It led to a public outcry to protect the downtown district from decay and proved to be the catalyst for a commitment to strengthen the downtown during the following years.