City proposes rec center in old electric plant

Resting on Burlington’s waterfront, the decommissioned and practically unused Moran electric plant could be looking toward new beginnings.The Moran electric plant opened in 1954 and was shut down by 1986; it has been vacant ever since, according to Burlington’s Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO) Web site. Mayor Bob Kiss, with the help of the City Council of Burlington, has proposed the redevelopment of the Moran Plant, according to the CEDO Web site.The City Council looked toward the engagement of Burlington residents to determine the future of the plant; they received 600 “Idea Cards” and 1,300 surveys from citizens of Burlington by the end of 2005, according to the Moran Center Report.Eighty-six percent of those polled liked the idea of a waterfront park best, according the Moran Plant Ballot.The restored plant’s park would house an indoor ice and rock climbing facility, a restaurant, a children’s museum and an expanded sailing center, according to the CEDO Web site.”No one spends time at the Waterfront in the winter,” lobbyist for the restoration, City Councilor Barbara Perry said, “it’s empty, scary [and] cold.” However, the redeveloped plant would offer free access to the public all year long, in addition to providing benefits to the entire community, said Kirsten Shapiro, special projects manager for the community and economic development office.Some benefits include permanent year-round jobs (approximately 80), new venues for tourism, avoidance of cost and waste associated with demolition and new property tax revenues, according to the Moran Center Report.Perry also mentioned the importance of preserving the plant, as it is the last remnant of the transformed waterfront. “There ain’t much left of our history, but the Moran” she said.Plus, the reconstruction, rather than the demolition, of the plant is greener, Perry said.Jon Slason, an active member of the Moran Plant Advisory Group (MAG), agrees. “The City has an amazing opportunity to take advantage of several motivated users who can transform a current defunct, dangerous structure into a shining beacon of sustainability and creative entrepreneurship characteristic of Burlington,” he said.Besides the interior of the Moran plant, other up?grades have been proposed for the waterfront, including bike path improvements, increased green space, a children’s splash park and a new skate park, according to the CEDO Web site. The estimated total cost of the project is approximately $21 million, however, the City would only pay about $7 million, Shapiro said.The proposal has gained wide acceptance and support throughout the community.”I think it’s a great idea they aren’t knocking down the plant,” UVM freshman Ed Guardaro said, “plus it’s even better, that they’re putting in a kid’s museum.”Hisashi Kominami, a member of the MAG and graduate student laboratory technician at UVM, thinks the proposal is great because it provides recreational diversity.”[With] … an [indoor] ice climbing facility [and] an ice rink, people [tourists] would have more options and incentives for coming to visit because Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate … and the weather is not always perfect,” she said. “I was just down at the Waterfront the other day and thinking about how hideous that building is; turning it into something would be perfect,” UVM junior Abby O’Brien said.Those who are registered can vote on the March 4 ballot for the onward movement of the renovation proposal, Perry said.”Just remember to vote, it’s so, so important,” she said.