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What's the Matter with Burlington?
Sunday, November 22, 2009
It's been almost seventeen years since the posts on Church Street went from green to black.

The mall sucks. Woolworth's is gone. You can't buy a hammer downtown. The economy of our urban core seems more and more to be premised on the idea that everybody has a trust fund or a government job.

I wish we could put a K-Mart or a Target in what used to be Porteus on Bank Street. Why has that part of the mall been closed for years? Why has McDonald's been closed for years? Nobody wants to run a McDonald's or a Taco Bell right in the center of downtown Burlington?

Maybe our downtown would reverse its decline if it invited back regular people. Wouldn't it be nice to go downtown with twenty bucks, buy a flannel shirt and some socks, get a coffee and still leave with two bucks?
posted by Haik Bedrosian @ 11:23 PM  
18 Comments:
  • At November 23, 2009 7:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It sucks but they're just giving people what they want. Looks the same as any other city.

     
  • At November 23, 2009 1:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree, sadly. Downtown has lost a lot of what used to be called white collar jobs in the last 20 years. People are now working nearer to the malls than Church St. I think most of the old Porteous space is now chopped up into other stores. It's interesting to note that the most successful part of the Burlington Town Center is anchored at the Macy's/Parking Garage end . . . . it's the Church St. end that's a dead zone.

    The problem with the old McDonald's was that they plunked their suburban-strip style box in a downtown setting, minus the parking. Now, if they had done the streetfront Micky-D's--the one you see in other cities, with lots of glass and light, on 2 levels--and placed it on Church Street--it would probably have thrived. But, with the political and class climate we have, I doubt that the city would have had the courage to approve it.

    One positive effect of the recession might be to make Church St. a little less precious, and attract some more local and/or "downmarket" businesses.

     
  • At November 23, 2009 3:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    my, it seems the uplifted nose, look down at others niche is not working on church street. It seems a bunch of so thought high class feel this must be their domain. Guess what , it aint working and it aint gonna.
    Lets turn the administration on its side and open a gun shop on church street. Bring real vermonters back to burlington thats what makes cities in the state run, real vermonters

     
  • At November 23, 2009 7:26 PM, Blogger Haik Bedrosian said…

    Yeah. I don't know about the whole gun shop on church street idea- and I'm not blaming mayor Kiss for a thirty year trend.

    But a hardware store or a bodega I'd be down with. A museum. Something.

    Not another boutique, please for the love of God.

    I love the Manhattan style McDonalds idea, but the existing building would work fine. Always did before.

    But interesting how McDonalds plays into the class discussion. I remember going to the downtown McDonalds early morning a couple of times after partying all night and there would be dozens of homeless people waiting for it to open.

     
  • At November 24, 2009 9:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    totally agreed. bring back woolworth!!!

     
  • At November 25, 2009 12:17 AM, Anonymous jonas said…

    Lets be honest about the McDonalds: its life span could not have been helped by the fact that there was a fairly constistently-present group of folks with social and mental problems there. Not sure why, or why no one seemed to care, but it could not have helped.

    Now, as for a gun shop....
    As much as that would be great, it aint going to happen. AT least, not until Burlington politics stops leaning/bending so far to the left. That said, I live in a town (Charlottesville, VA) that has a VERY similar downtown/walking mall set up (http://www.cooltownstudios.com/2004/06/24/best-college-towns-charlottesville-va). I'm told it took quite a while for the mall to take off, as it was far "local" back when. People still complain that "the hardware store" is gone. Then it got all upscale. Nonetheless, there is still a pawnshop on the strip. Sells guns. Doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Now, I know its the south, but C-Ville aint exactly all stars-and-bars. Note that it just made the Madison-Boulder-Burlington list of "best college towns" = plenty of out-of-state/transplant liberal agenda here. The pawnshop remains.

    Just a thought.

     
  • At November 25, 2009 3:50 PM, Anonymous Cathy Resmer said…

    I went to a McDonald's in Chicago that was awesome. Two stories. Glass. Had comfy chairs, like a coffeeshop.

    It was right across from our hotel, and we went there several times during the weekend that we were there.

    The old McDonald's in Burlington was a dump. If they put it in the space where Urban Outfitters is now, I might go there.

    Bruegger's is actually the next best thing. It's two stories, and it's fairly cheap. You can get a good breakfast sandwich with egg, cheese and bacon for something like $3.50 or so. And it's open early.

    I do miss the Woolworth's. A downtown Target would be great, but it seems unrealistic. There's plenty of space over in Winooski, if anyone wants to come on over there. There's about 150,000 square feet of space in the Champlain Mill that needs a tenant or two.

     
  • At November 25, 2009 9:05 PM, Blogger Haik Bedrosian said…

    The Champlain Mill was a good example of the retail milieu that us locals and working class people are totally sick of. Couldn't afford anything there and wouldn't have a use for any of it if I could.

    I do have fond memories of its heyday in the eighties though, because I used to go there with my mom. I spent a chunk of the early nineties hosing dishes at Water Works too. Then they moved me up to prep cook and that sucked. Dishes were better. I still have a scar on my left hand from that kitchen. Crazy. As I sit here now, touching this little scar on my hand is like touching the past. Crazy.

    But I digress. Maybe the building could become a textile mill again. Get that guy from LA who likes sex to set up an American Apparel factory or something.

    Retail is a poor job creator anyway. It's better to produce or add value to something if you want to produce jobs. Retail stores exist because people having jobs, not so much the other way 'round.

    Which brings us back to Anonymous number 2's comment about the 'white collar' jobs that used to be downtown to support the retail.

    I think we might be at a point where most of us no longer believe in the illusion that we can afford expensive things wrapped in attitude like what we find downtown, and unless something changes, downtown will keep going the way of the Champlain Mill.

    There's a class element to all this and a political undercurrent as well of course. Listen to the seething anger in the voice of Anonymous number 3. He and many believe the Progressives represent the bourgeoisie and so we are coming full circle from thirty years ago. Ben and Jerry's is long-since co-opted and sold-out, and the black posts remain on Church Street as a symbol of some bullshit attempt to pretend we're Vienna or something.

    Cathy Resmer, online editor for Seven Days- It is always an honor and a pleasure to have you join us here at BurlingtonPol.com.

    Thanks for reading. Visit often!

     
  • At November 26, 2009 2:50 AM, Blogger Morgan said…

    Haik I am interested in your use of the "black poles" as a marker of the phony ambiance you see downtown. To my eye, this pretense is better expressed by the dense rows of Victorian lights planted on Main St. west of the UVM Green. This lamp post was seen in old photos of downtown, and . . . POOF . . aluminum (painted black!) replicas have sprouted up all over town.

    The idea that a living, maybe even local artist might design a 21st century street light--a medium full of potential--was never debated, or even considered. I see this sensibility all over town, and no matter how much we like to think of ourselves as a "city" it is a very suburban-esque impulse that lies behind the fakery you see. And don't even get me going about the hokey lighthouses. (Hmmm... late 19th, or early 20th Century? Howsabout one of each!)

    And, I am beginning to agree with you about the Progressive agenda imploding into a wish-list of the liberal affluent. Remember Bernie Sander's rant? ..."the poor, the elderly, the working people..." If you haven't seen the PBS Documentary "People Like Us" (pbs.org/peoplelikeus/film/) then you should. It opens with a stinging narrative of Burlington's Onion River Co-op vs. Shaw's debate, as seen through the lens of class. Now I have to fess up I shop there and I like the store. But the idea that the Co-op would still serve the low income folks who wanted Shaw's--a promise made at the time--was ridiculous then, and forgotten since.

    Which brings me back to your street lights. The North Street re-scape project, was in no small part a kind of make-up gesture to the residents there who did not get their supermarket. The city responded with what they do best: historic street lighting.

     
  • At November 29, 2009 5:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "Wouldn't it be nice to go downtown with twenty bucks, buy a flannel shirt and some socks, get a coffee and still leave with two bucks?"

    You sound like some old codger pining away for the good old days. Grow up and wake up; this is 2009. You can't get a shirt, socks, and a coffee for less than $20. If you want that, you'll have to go to Walmart, which is the scourge of the earth and is destroying our beautiful country. People with a conscious should not step foot inside.

    If you could drag your lazy butt 4 blocks off church street, you could buy a hammer at Curtis lumber. It's called walking; perhaps you should try it sometime.

    Church street is doing well. Vermont is doing much better then most of the country economy-wise, and we should all be proud of it.

    Hoping for a k-mart or a target in our beautiful downtown is disgusting.

     
  • At November 30, 2009 12:06 AM, Blogger Haik Bedrosian said…

    Not a hint of irony in that whole comment. Like a liberal Stephen Colbert. Very good.

     
  • At November 30, 2009 1:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    oh yeah? Target and Kmart are disgusting? how about we add another yuppie restaurant to the many more we already have. i think Target downtown is a great idea!
    and yeah, i can get a shirt, socks and coffee at Walmart under $20.

     
  • At December 01, 2009 10:46 AM, Anonymous Cathy Resmer said…

    Haik, your American Apparel suggestion is a good one. An AA shop in the Champlain Mill would rock!

    I agree that that space is not ideal for retail. But it's an awesome office environment. I keep trying to convince Seven Days to move there, but am having no luck. No one shares my vision. It's really a sweet spot, though.

     
  • At December 02, 2009 2:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Why is there no hardware store on Church Street? Because the market couldn't bear one. Simple as that. What kind of anti-capitalist vision do you have for Church Street? [snark]

    As for City Market - it might be the most pretentious place to shop in Chittenden County, but anyone who thinks it's "overpriced" and somehow class driven is crazy. How many people actually REMEMBER or SHOPPED at the store it replaced? Do we have to have rotten produce and urine stains on the walls to keep it from being called a yuppy store? Does anyone remember how OVERPRICED the old market was?

    As far as I can see, City Market is crowded 7 days a week. And it's FILLED with white collar working people stopping on their ways home from work. I'm not quite sure how to brand that some kind of mistake or failure.

    That, and it has an awesome beer selection.

    Finally, take a look at Winooski as an example of what happens when you *don't* have that semi-lame, out-of-town backing for your downtown. Would you prefer Church Street to be empty? No thanks.

     
  • At December 02, 2009 2:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    RE: Downtown losing a lot of white collar jobs?

    Can anyone actually cite numbers to support this comment? Are there large portions of downtown that were white collar that are now retail? I don't think so - with the top of the street anchored by the school and health department, etc., seems to me that dozens and dozens of retail jobs (old Penny's) are now white collar. And it's not like the giant DRM building a block off Church Street was there 30 years ago.

    So, did Church Street really lose a lot of white collar jobs? Does anyone actually know this?

    Bottom line - when I stroll downtown during the day, I see 1001 working folks and 2001 UVM/Champlain students. Just like I did in the 80s.

     
  • At December 03, 2009 12:35 AM, Blogger Morgan said…

    Lots of white collar jobs have left downtown, but others have moved in. Go out to the office parks at Tower Hill, Taft Corners, Kimball Ave./Shunpike Rd., Tilley Drive, Kennedy Drive, Farrel/Swift St. The lobby directories are full of former downtown offices: banks, insurance companies, financial firms, medical offices, accountants, non profits. Most recently the Federal Building lost much of its work force to the new Bldg. in South Burlington, and CCV--a major presence--is heading to Winooski. To a large extent downtown has retained it's appeal to the creative-economy work force, which is not surprising, and a definite bright spot. I couldn't tell you if we have had a net loss of jobs. But we have different jobs than we used to.

    I am sticking by my comments about City Market. I never implied the store is not a success--far from it. But let's remember the original debate: Shaw's and City Market were vying for a $2 million dollar Federal subsidy that was sought by the City to fill the void left when the old supermarket closed. Accordingly, it was a presumption that all applicants would propose a store to serve all downtown residents . . . and City Market certainly talked the talk after they had been chosen, even creating an outreach plan for low income shoppers.

    That was then. The store may be crowded with white collar shoppers, which is my point. Low income residents in the old North End--arguably those who most needed and deserved a new store--these folks still head in droves the first few days of each month to Hannaford's or Price Chopper. Please take a look at the PBS video. Our own City Market is their lead story illuminating social class in this country.

     
  • At December 09, 2009 9:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Burlington's retail sales slide

    By Dan McLean, Free Press Staff Writer • Wednesday, December 9, 2009

    Burlington's share of retail sales, compared with other Chittenden County towns, has fallen during the past six years, causing concern about the performance of the city's shopping district.

    "You can see by this picture, it's not very positive," said Steve Allen of Allen & Brooks, a South Burlington real-estate analysis firm. Allen pointed to a slide that showed Burlington's retail market share falling from 21 percent in 2003 to 14 percent this year.
    Cost-conscious shoppers, created by the lingering recession, might have looked to discount stores outside the Queen City for their purchases, Allen said. A range of shopping options, including national discount stores in nearby towns, are generating healthy retail competition for Burlington.

    "We're very concerned about the retail trend in Burlington. It's worse than I anticipated," said Burlington Community and Economic Development Office Director Larry Kupferman, who attended the Allen & Brooks presentation at the Ethan Allen Club on Tuesday morning. The event was for subscribers and contributors to Allen & Brooks real-estate reports...

     
  • At December 09, 2009 9:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    ...The retail market in Chittenden County is getting bigger, giving consumers more options, Allen said. "When consumer spending declines it will have more impact on Burlington," he said because the state's largest city tends to cater to high-end stores.
    Burlington's shops and boutiques create an eclectic mix, said Kelly Devine, executive director of the Burlington Business Association. Devine said she is concerned some of the Church Street vacancies might be filled with "dollar stores," reducing some of the pedestrian mall's character.

    Last year, Allen said, there were six vacancies in downtown Burlington, a number he called "fairly striking." That tally of vacant storefronts has increased to eight this year, he said.

    Burlington had $195 million in retail sales in the 2009 fiscal year, which ended June 30, according to state tax data. That's 24 percent less than the $255 million in sales in 2003. Sales have fallen 12 percent from 2008, a likely result of the sluggish economy and rising jobless rate.

    "There is no doubt the retail market is feeling the effects of the recession," Allen said.
    Williston, home to several big-box stores including Walmart, tallied the highest amount of retail sales, $368 million, for 2009. Williston sales figures are also down by about 12 percent, according to state tax data, but the town is 14 percent above its 2003 retail sales total of $324 million.

    Bruce Seifer, assistant director for economic development at CEDO, said the declining market share of retail sales in Burlington is not emblematic of a larger problem.

    "There has been a lot of growth in the outlying areas. If you build new stores, people go to the new stores," Seifer said. "I think that's just reasonable to expect."

    Despite the weakening in market share and the fall-off in sales, Burlington's retail vacancy rate is not out of line. Vacancy is slightly higher in the city's central business district, where it increased from 7.4 percent to 7.7 percent in the past 12 months. The current rate is below the historic average of 8.5 percent, "a sign of general market stability," according to an analysis by Allen & Brooks.

    Chittenden County's retail vacancy rate was 6.5 percent. Seifer said the commercial retail vacancy rate for all of Burlington, not just the business district, is 6.1 percent.

    "The retail market is feeling the impact of the prolonged recession," the Allen & Brooks' study said. "Lower consumer spending is translating to weakened demand for space. The result is that there are fewer transactions as well as some negative pressure on rents. Both small and larger retailers have been affected in this broad-based decline."

    The study said demand in the retail sector "will continue to be weak throughout 2010."

    Contact Dan McLean at 651-4877 or dmclean@bfp.burlingtonfree press.com.

     
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by Kristine

Minor Heresies
by "Heretic"

Norsehorse's Home on the Web
by Morgan W. Brown

Norsehorse's Home Turf
by Morgan W. Brown

Political Animal
by Steve Benen and featuring Hilzoy

Politicker VT
by Jared Corey Kushner

Reason and Brimstone
by Julie Waters and Friends

The Carpetbagger Report
by Steve Benen

The Dwinell Political Report
by James Dwinwll

The Prog Blog
by Vermont Progressives

Tirade Parade
by "Tirade25"

Vermont Commons
by Brian McClintock

Vermont Hum
by Brian McClintock

Vermont Scrap Wood
by Scrapwood

Vermont Snarky Boy
by Michael Colby

What's the point?
by "Vermonter"

"Burlington"

Fletcher Free Library
Burlington City Arts
Burlington Free Press
Burlington College
Burlington Currency Project
Burlington Film Makers
Burlington Gardens
Preservation Burlington
Burlington Nights
Burlington Schools Coalition
Burlington Telecom

The Just Once Archives:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Burlington Music Scene

AramBedrosian.com
Big Heavy World
Icebox Records
Live Music Beth
Nato
Tom Azarian

Other Random Websites

http://www.antiwar.com
Radio Free Quaker
AlGore.org
Bellisse
christopherpearson.org
CCTV Channel 17
Here (BurlingtonPol.com)

Ari K's Strange Blue Planet

Bach's Cello Suite #1 in G Major Prelude

"Bulldog's" Bio

My Dream House

Adbusters

Daily Kos

Michael Moore

Nizkor

CCTV Channel 17

VCAM Channel 15

Vermont Guardian

UVM Cynic

WVAA 1390 AM

AM 620 WVMT

90.1 WRUV FM


Lois the Hot Dog Lady


Women Helping Battered Women

Dr. Tuna, et al.

7D

Burlington "Free" Press

WCAX Channel 3 (CBS)

WPTZ Channel 5 (NBC)

SEABA

Vermont Bar Association

Chittenden Solid Waste District

Chittenden Solid Waste District

Carnegie library building

Wiki Leaks

Madeleine Kunin's Resume

Famous Vermonters Part I

Famous Vermonters Part II

True Crime in Burlington

Kennedy Family Tree

Rockefeller Family Tree

Bush Family Tree

Church of the Subgenius

Robert Anton Wilson

Right Here Writing From China!

Democracy Now!

Neighborhood Planning Assemblies

Huffington Post

Editor and Publisher

Bet on Politics!

Political Graveyard

Rasmussen Reports

Mark Fiore

Frame Shop

The King of All Media

Alexandra Kosteniuk

Yahoo!

Google

Dictionary

Bellisse

Boob Nazis

MRBFK

ACLU

Center for Digital Democracy

Free Radio Burlington

The Freedom Forum

Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Random Election Literature

Yahoo!

Google

Dictionary

blog

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

-Emma Lazarus, 1883

Church Street Energy System

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