Opportunity Awaits: Why Downtown Burlington is Primed for Retail Renaissance

If you read  Reddit or talk to someone “who hasn’t been to Church Street in years” you may think they are confusing 1980s Bogata to present-day Burlington Vermont. However, if you go on Spotify Wrapped Sound Town you’ll learn you may already live in Burlington.  While the hand-wringing about crime and vacant storefronts makes splashy headlines, make no mistake – Burlington remains bursting with promise for smart businesses, especially, Church Street.

First, I remain of the opinion Burlington is really not even a city by any measure of population until you factor in crime and homelessness. There’s no hiding the fact, that Muddy Water’s, My Sushi, Art’s Alive, Burton, Ace, The Daily Planet, Starbucks, and Slate have closed up shop in 2023. Outdoor Gear Exchange has reduced its size.  I think Church Street Tavern is shuttering as well.

On the flipside, there’s plenty of new business to get excited about.  Burlington Art’s Market, Green Bean, Burlington Bike & Ski expanded and there are plenty of new spots to grab a bite, so it’s not all doom and gloom.

The core statistics tell a powerful story – it has nearly half the violent crime of average U.S. metro areas, and robust tourism powering double-digit growth in arts/hospitality sectors even amidst economic headwinds. Drill deeper though, and the real opportunity emerges.

Savvy entrepreneurs will reject outdated cheesy marketing that some think visitors crave, like “I Heart Burlington” tees, and instead they  visiitors demand immersive experiences that let patrons taste Vermont’s essence through craft workshops, and farm-to-table cafes.   Things that make  Vermont Vermont.

This is a buy low, sell high moment for Church Street, not that real estate is low.  Cityplace, downtown’s eyesore turned huge opportunity will open in the coming 18 months. Hotels are being built and refurbished all over.  So, the chance exists not merely to sell, but to enrich lives and leave a mark. For bright-eyed makers and restaurateurs, seeking fertile soil to make their mark with travelers,  Church Street is still it.

Burlington is small enough, that tiny changes can provide big turnarounds and fast. The choice is clear for those daring to see beyond the city’s surface challenges. Retreat in doubt, or march forward fueled by possibility.   If this is your home there’s only one choice.

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