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Developer Reveals Latest Design for Tama Replacement in Downtown Burlington

Aug 29, 2019

The historic Tama Complex in downtown Burlington was in the midst of a multi-million dollar renovation one year ago when it was destroyed by a fire. The site is now clear of debris and the developer has revealed his latest plans to replace the two buildings.

Doug Wells told the city council this week that he plans to build a single, three-story “L-shaped” building.

Wells said the ground floor of the building will feature roughly 6,000 square feet of retail space along Jefferson Street and North 3rd Street. He said the second and third floors would include a total of 22 one-and-two bedroom apartments, roughly half of which would be rent-controlled for low-to-moderate income individuals or families.

A view of the proposed courtyard
Credit City of Burlington

Wells said a local bank has extended a line of credit to help fund the project. He is also seeking state funding through the Community Development Block Grant program.

“Right now, our late start is spring,” said Wells. “However, we are all going to work as hard as we can to get our application in and get it approved this fall.”

Wells would like the city to apply for the funding on his behalf, an arrangement the city council could sign off on as early as next week.

Wells said the site is ready for construction to begin.

“The site is cleaned up other than the paving in the courtyard,” said Wells. “The structural fill is complete. There is about five feet of sand compacted and about six feet of clay compacted on top of that. That base is done and ready to go for the new building.

Wells said once construction begins, it should be finished within 10-12 months.

Appearance

Wells said the “L-Shape” of the building will sit along Jefferson Street and N. 3rd Street, squared up with neighboring buildings. He said the remaining portion of the property will be a large, green courtyard that will be available for use by residents, customers, or the public.

The view from the intersection of Jefferson and N. 3rd Streets
Credit City of Burlington

“If we are able to secure a restaurant tenant [for the building], they would have the ability to set up outdoor dining in that space [as well],” said Wells.

The apartments will range in size from about 570 square feet to more than 800 square feet. Each would feature a private balcony.

Wells said his goal is to incorporate inside his new buidling aspects of the original Tama building, essentially telling its story.

“We saved as many of the artifacts as we could during demolition and they have been stored to use,” said Wells. "They are elements such as cast iron columns… the exterior brick, the terra cotta pieces. We have an abundant supply of those and we plan on implementing those things somewhere in the building.”

Exactly where he will place the artifacts remains to be seen as Wells said he is still working with local and state historic preservation organizations on the details.

Alderwoman Lynda Graham-Murray told Wells she would like to see some of the historical aspects of the Tama building on the exterior of his building.

“I worry that if we hid [them all] inside, the historic preservation people might not look inside because it looks like a new building.”

The fire destroyed the Tama Complex in August 2018
Credit Cody Fleitner

Wells said a lot of those decisions will be made in consultation with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).

“I like those ideas and we will certainly make those thoughts known to SHPO,” said Wells. “In general, [SHPO’s] view is it is a new building and it should look like a new building, not try to copy an old building.”

Aldermen seemed overall supportive of the design.

“I would tell you this design, compared to the first one you brought for two separate buildings, I really think that will be really pleasing to the eye on the corner. I applaud you,” said Alderman Jon Billups.