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Waste Site Cleanup & Reuse in New England

Affordable Waterfront Apartments - Burlington, VT
(April 2006)

Program: EPA Assessment Grant
Grantee: City of Burlington (contacts)
Summary: Waterfront housing provides 40 units of environmentally-friendly mixed-income homes on a former scrap yard in Burlington.

Click to enlarge photo: Waterfront Apartments in Burlington, VT

For years, the Burlington, Vermont property, just above the shore of Lake Champlain, was used as a scrap yard, and a railroad siding for pressurized gas storage. The property was in an industrial area of Vermont's largest city, at the northern fringe of the urban zone. Located within a designated downtown, the site was within walking distance of employment opportunities, shopping, and public transportation.

Plans to develop waterfront housing along this site began in the mid-1980's. The Burlington housing market had a shortfall of rental housing of all kinds. The City of Burlington solicited proposals from private developers twice – but there was a lack of interest due to the environmental risks. Besides the scrap yard and rail uses, aerial photos also revealed 55-gallon drums that most likely contained used oil.

Since 1996, the EPA has given the City of Burlington $500,000 in Brownfields Assessment Grants for assessments around the city. From those funds, $35,000 went to conducting environmental site assessments at this site. In 1999, the city conducted further environmental investigations at the site and spent $110,000 to purchase two-tenths of an acre to expand the site. That same year, the Burlington Community Land Trust (BCLT), in partnership with Housing Vermont (HV), proposed a plan to develop affordable, environmentally-friendly housing on the site. In February 2001, after a competitive process, the City Council voted to select the BCLT/HV team as the housing developer for this project.

HUD provided an $800,000 Special Purpose Grant and the equivalent of the city's entire annual allocation of federal HOME funds to support the project. In addition, the development received one of the largest City Housing Trust Fund Grants to date, and the annual ground lease payments are below market rates.

Click to enlarge photo: Waterfront Apartments in Burlington, VT

The development is the first multi-unit residential building in Vermont to earn the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Also, the energy efficiency of Waterfront Housing exceeds the Energy Star 5-Star level rating set by the Department of Energy. As an additional benefit, the development also solved a long-standing storm water runoff problem with environmentally-sound treatment, and has maximized green space by including a parking garage rather than a large asphalt parking lot.

Burlington had already been successful in developing and maintaining waterfront amenities such as public access, parks, commuter rail, community boathouse, fishing pier, and the like. However, until this project, waterfront housing had remained exclusive. As a result of this project, affordable housing on the waterfront is available. A total of 40 families, including many that have been priced out of the housing market, are able to enjoy living along beautiful Lake Champlain.


  • 1996 - 2001: EPA's Brownfields Program provided funding to the City of Burlington; $35,000 of those funds went to conducting environmental site assessments at this site.

  • 1999: The City's Waterfront Revitalization Plan was adopted; affordable rental housing on waterfront was stressed.

  • 2001: City signs a development agreement for the waterfront housing.

  • July 2003: Groundbreaking.

  • October 2004: Ribbon cutting.

  • January 2005: Waterfront Housing was LEED Certified.

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