Weinberger announces next steps for developing Moran FRAME

Immediate plan for new amenities and infrastructure to expand current programming with ARPA funding; Six-month public engagement effort concludes with a long-term vision for year-round recreation at the Moran FRAME as a cultural destination

Vermont Business Magazine Today, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger announced the completion of a six-month public engagement and design process for the Moran FRAME that resulted in a striking new concept for the future of the now revived northern waterfront. Implementing this bold, long-term community vision would require new partnerships, philanthropic and grant support, and other financing. To support these efforts, the Administration will add amenities and infrastructure on site using already committed ARPA funds and continue the City’s partnership with Friends of the FRAME, a local non-profit organization that has supported community programming on-site throughout 2023.

Moran FRAME Phase 2 skating path. BTV.

“After decades of stagnation, we have transformed the old Moran Plant from the abandoned eyesore it was into a striking new landmark on the Burlington waterfront that now hosts an increasing number of events and visitors,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “Now, following a six-month public engagement and community design process, and a full calendar year of new arts and cultural programming, we have a plan to turn the Moran FRAME into a beloved waterfront destination. Achieving this stirring vision for what this unique park could become in the future will require more work ahead for the City team, the Friends of the FRAME, and the whole community.”

In the near term, the Administration will use ARPA funds to create new infrastructure for expanded programming and vendor opportunities.

The Mayor, CEDO, and design team will present a physical model and other design materials of the new Phase 2 concept to the public at a special event at Burlington City Arts, in the Lorraine B. Good Room on Thursday, February 8 between 3 pm and 6 pm. The Phase 2 design, if realized, would take the Moran FRAME from being a local treasure to a national destination with year-round activity, recreation, and commerce. The design includes space for concerts and performances, expansive views, year-round activity including a skating ribbon, markets, waterfront seating, and public art.  

Images of the new concept are online here.

The bold conceptual design for this important Burlington landmark is informed by the ways people have already embraced the Moran FRAME.  

Zach Campbell, Founder of Friends of The FRAME, added: “This is a vision centered around community, the joy of shared experiences, inclusivity, wonder, and creative energy. Phase 2 strikingly manifests and unlocks the true potential of The FRAME as a one-of-a-kind, year-round gathering space for Burlington residents and visitors alike.”

The Phase 2 Conceptual Design for the Moran FRAME was developed in the summer and fall of 2023 by the Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) led design team in close collaboration with the City of Burlington, Friends of The FRAME, and a range of local community members and stakeholders.

“As a former Burlington resident and UVM grad who enjoyed many unforgettable memories along the waterfront, it is gratifying to be part of such a unique and promising project as the Frame,” said Hillary Archer, Project Manager. “The site and its potential hold so many opportunities to build upon all the fun experiences already happening here, but also create something new and unexpected for Burlington. It’s a landscape architect’s dream project for sure.”

“Our most rewarding projects uplift places that already have a passionate community behind them. The Moran Frame is just that—a beloved public space with a seemingly spontaneous user base whose engagement with the Frame grew organically out of the intrinsic qualities of the site,” said Matt Urbanksi, MVVA Partner, “Phase 2 is an ambitious plan that is grounded in constituents’ aspirations, creates new opportunities on the Burlington waterfront, and celebrates the history and ecology of the region.” 

Next Steps – Phase 1b Implementation

The Mayor will bring forward the following actions to continue investment in the Moran FRAME and test the feasibility of the Phase 2 Vision, including:

·       Near-term ARPA-funded construction that responds to lessons learned over the past two years and public feedback gathered during 2023, and is intended to dovetail with the scope proposed for Phase 2.  The focus will be on new infrastructure to host a variety of public events and performances and additional vendor infrastructure. 

·       Seek Council approval for a new contract with Friends of The FRAME to continue public programming and activation of the Moran FRAME site in 2024 and 2025 with movie nights, live performances, public art, placemaking and continued partnership with wasted* to provide on-site restrooms; and to design a capital fundraising campaign for implementing the Phase 2 vision.

About the Phase 2 Design and Community Process 

The design was developed in partnership with Utile; SE GROUP; Engineering Ventures; Freeman French Freeman; Domingo Gonzalez Associates; and Altieri Sebor Wieber, LLC.

One of the design team’s earliest tasks was creating a detailed Public Engagement Plan in coordination with the City Project Team, outlining the format and objectives of public meetings and workshops with local stakeholders. The outreach effort began with an online and mail-in survey intended to gather the community’s greatest aspirations for the site, garnering more than 550 responses. Above all else, Burlington residents were interested in concerts and performances, expansive views, year-round activity, markets, waterfront seating, and public art—provisions for all of which were included in the final design. The meetings, which took place in September and November of 2023, included a site walk, presentation, and a physical model constructed by MVVA to facilitate feedback.

The result of these engagements is a cohesive vision informed by deep collaboration:

·       Accessible paths have been elevated onto a series of gently sloping mounds that echo the mountains across Lake Champlain in miniature, allowing visitors to climb higher into the remaining steel structure and experience panoramic views of the waterfront. Four footbridges connect the site’s high points and to Level 2 of the FRAME, which will become an event platform that connects to a Level 3 lookout platform via stairs and an elevator. Together, the two new floors will have the ability to accommodate a substantial amount of visitors and a broad spectrum of events. On the ground level within the former building’s footprint, visitors will be able to pass through a garden filled with high-limbed ginkgoes that poke through gaps in the structure, and the south side of the Frame will provide covered bays for food and beverage vendors.

·       A skating ribbon will wind around the FRAME and through the new landforms in a figure-eight path, offering year-round skating activities (ice skating in winter, roller skating in the warmer months) that will draw many more visitors to the park. At the steepest slopes of the constructed mounds, pockets of local stone and birch trees will give skaters the impression of moving through a meandering wilderness trail as they round each corner. Each hill tapers into a sloped lawn at the center of the site, forming a half-acre bowl capable of hosting 2,000+ visitors for performances when the ribbon is not in use, while offering year-round areas for picnicking and informal gatherings. Along the western edge of the existing Andy A_Dog Williams Skatepark, tiered concrete seating creates a viewing amphitheater and gathering area for skatepark users.

·       The park’s planting palette echoes typical Vermont shoreline environments with a mix of birch, sugar maples, and native arborvitae, and the site’s existing swale has been reimagined as an expanded wetland and the primary stormwater-retaining feature of the landscape.

·       To improve connections between the FRAME and Burlington neighborhoods, the arched path of Waterworks Park is routed directly into the high-activity southern promenade of the Frame, and site entrances have been routed into the multimodal Island Line Trail at multiple locations. On the waterfront, a timber boardwalk and pier will provide a more inviting edge to enjoy views of Lake Champlain.

Background  

In early 2014, Mayor Weinberger announced a slate of now completed projects for the Waterfront Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District, ultimately approved by the City Council and Burlington voters, bringing $9.6 million in TIF funds to leverage additional investment; the projects included:

·       The Moran FRAME;

·       The new home for the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center;

·       The new Water Works Park which increased access to the water’s edge through a wooden boardwalk, benches, fishing pier, and native shrubs, grasses, and trees;

·       Improved landscaping, environmental remediation, and utility relocations in the Waterfront Park and the entire northern waterfront;

·       New parking amenity, solar canopy, rain gardens, and public art at ECHO; and

·       Expansions to the Burlington Harbor Marina along with publicly accessible amenities like bathrooms and parking.

In November 2022, the City cut the ribbon on the completion of the first phase of construction activating the long-abandoned providing the framework for future phases of development. The project budget was $6.55 million, funded by $3.559 million from the Waterfront TIF district, a $2 million redevelopment loan from the federal Agency of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and $950,000 from the Burlington Electric Department for environmental remediation. Construction began in August 2020 and included:

·       Removal of the brick and concrete exterior of the Moran Plant, avoiding the significant expense of stabilizing the bricks, and stabilizing the steel frame beneath;

·       Abatement and remediation of hazardous building materials, including asbestos, lead paint, and PCB paint to make the site safe for the public;

·       Remediation of the soils at the Moran site and completed remediation of soils throughout the post-industrial Waterfront Access North area;

·       Creation of an at-grade, level grassy area at the site and accessible paths through and around the FRAME connecting Waterworks Park and the Burlington Greenway;

·       Introduced sub-grade utilities to provide lighting and support future;

·       Painted the steel superstructure, restored the iconic “City of Burlington” letters added new interpretive signage, installed dramatic LED lighting for nighttime use;  

About Friends of The FRAME

Friends of The FRAME is an organization established in 2022 to support the sustained use of the Moran Frame site as an ever-evolving, four-season, public space focused on facilitating high-quality, inclusive public programming and supporting ongoing stewardship of this place. In July, the City entered into a contract with the newly formed non-profit to pilot a partnership in which Friends of The FRAME will focus on programming and activating the site.

  • Late in 2022, Friends of The FRAME launched a successful Better Places crowdfunding campaign raising a total of $60,000 for infrastructure investment at the Frame including:
    • Bench Swings (designed and fabricated with Generator Makerspace)
    • Wifi Hotspot
    • Seating and tables and all-ages lawn games
    • Public restroom pilot in partnership with Burlington-based company Wasted*
    • Secure on-site storage with historical exhibit and community idea board
  • Throughout the summer of 2023, Friends of The FRAME provided free weekly movie nights with on-site vendors and supported the site-specific art installation and opening event, Blue Alchemy by Renée Greenlee.

Source: 2.2.2024. Burlington. Office of Mayor Miro Weinberger. Renderings courtesy Mayor's office.

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