The city of Burlington decided in 2006 that a large piece of land along two busy streets would be ideal for development. Ten years later, it appears that vision will soon become a reality.
More than 30 people stood on the eastern edge of the property, known locally as the Manor, for about 30 minutes. They posed for photos in front of a construction trailer, just a few feet from several pieces of heavy equipment and a row of ceremonial golden shovels.
They were there to witness the official ground-breaking for the roughly 28-acre site. Though construction crews have already been on site for several weeks breaking up concrete slabs and removing trees.
Two local businessmen, Scott Spear and Randy Winegard, purchased the property from the city for $2.4-million, half of which has already been paid. They closed on the site in May.
Spear said the initial plan is to sell sections of the lot along Highway 61 and Agency Streets to people or businesses for retail or commercial use. In fact, he said three lots are already under contract.
He said when it comes to the rest of the giant lot, a plan is in the works.
“We are going to do something creative with the inner portion of the property,” said Spear. “We don’t know what that is yet. We are going to work through it. I would be lying if I said we had a game plan for the whole property, but I think we will put it to good use.”
That is music to the ears of city leaders, who have been trying to find someone to develop the Manor for nearly a decade.
In 2006, the city decided the site would be ideal for development and borrowed millions of dollars to acquire homes and buildings on the site, even using eminent domain in some instances. Once the people living there were relocated, the buildings on site were razed.
Burlington thought it had a deal with an out-of-state developer to purchase the site, but it fell through, leaving the city with a giant, vacant lot and the annual cost of paying it off.
City Manager Jim Ferneau said, eight years later, the city still owes about $4-million, which should be paid off within the next 5-6 years.
Mayor Shane McCampbell was not on the city council when the decision was made to develop the Manor, but he said after the ground-breaking that it’s a decision he continues to hear about from residents.
“I get emails just about once a week asking me when something is going to happen at the site,” said McCampbell. “So I think this will stop those emails. I am excited about this project.”
McCampbell said he is confident this project will greatly benefit the city by breathing life back into the Manor after all these years. He is especially glad to see the work being done by locals.
“I’d love to see every project done by what we have in-house,” said McCampbell. “I think we have fantastic people here and here’s a sign of it. Here’s a couple of people who want to make a difference here in their own home town, so yeah… loving, loving that.”
Scott Spear said after the ground-breaking that he does not know exactly when people will start to see building construction getting underway. He said what he does know is that this is more than an investment.
“Obviously, we want it to be successful from an investment standpoint, but we also want it to provide value to the city and to the community.”