There’s no doubt 2022 was a busy year for the BBA. We added a new Program Coordinator to the team with Lexie Wheeler, saw a return to in-person committee meetings and events, and continued to be a voice for business on the two greatest challenges to Burlington’s continued economic vitality; housing affordability and public safety. Here are some highlights:
In the fall we launched a seven-point public safety plan to address the concerns of many businesses and visitors to downtown. The plan came out of the BBA’s Downtown Action Group and calls for sidewalk/park clean-up events, distribution of graffiti removal products, increased lighting downtown, relaunching our Downtown Ambassadors escort program, creating a downtown business phone tree, and offering training for downtown employees.
With the support of the Burlington business community, BBA raised $5000 to supply the Howard Center Street Outreach Team with six custom-fitted, stab-resistant vests. The vests were purchased from Parro’s, a Vermont business located in Waterbury. Additional funds remaining will be utilized to buy additional vests for Howard Center Street Outreach Team’s future hires in the event the team can reach full staffing.
The Downtown Ambassador program returned for another holiday season. The team checked in with over 250 downtown businesses throughout the season; offering escorts to employees’ cars, assisting with trespass notices, and providing an additional safety presence in the downtown core. The ambassadors submitted over 100 See Click Fix and BPD Online Incident reports during the two months they were on the streets; reporting anything from graffiti and trash to needles and suspicious activity. We’re exploring funding sources to continue this program on a more permanent basis, so be sure to keep an eye out for future updates.
In July BBA partnered with the South Burlington Business Association, the Vermont Retail and Grocers Association, and the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce to host a debate between Sarah George (I) and her opponent Ted Kenney, both Democrats vying for the party’s nomination in the August, 9th Primary. The debate was moderated by NBC5’s Stewart Ledbetter and received news coverage in print, TV, and radio.
The lack of affordable housing has been one of the greatest challenges Burlington faces. The BBA has had supporting additional housing as a top priority since 2010. We know more people living in Burlington is critical to our economic vitality and providing housing for young people is essential to our city’s future. Call us YIMBYs (yes in my backyard), but when it comes to housing development, the BBA is all in. Here are some successes for housing last year that BBA tracked and supported.
Land Use Reform
BBA closely tracked efforts to upzone both UVM’s Trinity Campus and the South End Innovation District to allow for more housing in planning commission meetings and conversations with members and partners. BBA voiced our support and saw both proposals make their way out of the planning commission, now waiting for review by the council.
In November, Colin Hilliard and Board Member Ryan Nick presented at the Vermont Developers Conference on the topic of Missing Middle Housing.
In the coming year, Burlington will explore zoning changes to re-legalize historic neighborhood patterns and allow for more infill development along transit corridors. The state legislature is also expected to take up several housing reforms to allow for and incentivize more types of housing to be built in more places. We’ll closely be following these initiatives, adding our voices when needed, and working with partners to bring more housing to our communities.
Grand Openings, Groundbreaking, and Demolitions
Congrats and Thank You to the many members, developers, brokers, and builders who made big strides this year.
- 77 Pine ST Grand Opening – Zoning reforms like removal of parking minimums played a small part in making these projects possible.
- CityPlace – Foundation Pouring
- 20 Pine Street (Cathedral Immaculate Conception) granted demo permit – BBA submitted comment in favor of granting the demolition permit.
Mayor Miro Weinberger has prioritized upgrading and maintaining the city’s infrastructure throughout his time in office. That is good for Burlington. His administration also has a bold plan called Great Streets to improve public spaces and walkability downtown. The BBA follows this program and its projects closely as they have potential impacts on downtown.
Main Street – Great Street
Main Street will be the next street to see a total redesign under the Great Streets model. In May the City Council unanimously approved the Conceptual Design of the Great Streets—Main Street project that included narrowing the curb to curb width and a resulting loss of ~67 parking spaces. BBA has closely followed the project and designs to ensure impacted businesses have a voice and are kept updated on construction impacts. We successfully advocated for a downtown parking study to be conducted and BBA has a seat on the project’s parking advisory committee. Construction is expected to begin late 2023.
The BBA, alongside the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC), is studying the transportation connectivity between Burlington’s new Amtrak service and downtown Burlington. The new Amtrak train service has the potential to attract many tourists to Burlington.
The BBA will prepare and widely distribute a report on the planned improvements and recommendations and advocate for advancing them. The extension of the Ethan Allen Express (EAX) presents an opportunity for Burlington to grow its tourism base; however, its long-term success depends on making it easy to travel between Union Station and the wider Burlington community.
BBA’s Downtown Action Group, Waterfront Action Group, and Programs Committee all saw a return to in-person meetings and new leadership under new committee chairs.
At DAG we brainstormed and proposed major public safety programs and brought back the Adopt Your Sidewalk campaign.
At WAG we met with city officials, advocated for changes to private rental policies for Waterfront Park, and mourned the loss of our dear friend Bill Truex.
2022 saw the return of several in-person events for the BBA. We’re looking forward to expanding on these in 2023 and bringing back our signature annual dinner and awards in a brand-new concept.
For the first time, the Burlington Business Association (BBA) teamed up with the South Burlington Business Association (SBBA) to host an event at BETA Technologies. This event was a huge success and an excellent opportunity for networking between our business communities. Attendees got a behind-the-scenes look at the flight innovations BETA is working on.
Cocktails & Coffee with Kelly
As part of our casual event series, we offered either Coffee or Cocktails with Kelly once a month. This gave members a chance to talk with Kelly directly, ask questions, and share their concerns. Cocktails with Kelly was also an excellent opportunity for members to network with each other in a more casual setting.
The BBA is the voice of business in Burlington. In 2022 we spoke with nearly a dozen media outlets in print, TV, and radio. We’ve been interviewed by major news websites like the Daily Beast, given over 30 on-camera interviews to all three local TV news channels, and have a regular presence on WVMT’s The Morning Drive where Kelly has a monthly feature and occasionally guest hosts. We’re always working to advocate for Burlington’s economic vitality and our members in the community conversation.
We can’t do this work without YOU – Our Members
Our members enable us to advocate on their behalf and be a voice for Burlignton’s economic vitality. If you value this work consider supporting the BBA through the following: