Church Street Storytellers

Those of us who live and work in the Burlington area may take for granted the lively commercial and cultural activity of the downtown Church Street Marketplace, the artistic and economic heart of the city. But have you ever wondered just how this pedestrian–only area of 4 city blocks came to be?
The Marketplace officially opened in 1981. In conjunction with its 30 year anniversary, the Church Street Marketplace Association recently released a series of 4 documentary videos with interviews of the key people who worked to turn this crazy idea into a reality.
At the center of this group of individuals was Bill Truex, Principal Emeritus of TruexCullins and the architect of the initial marketplace design.

Part 1
takes a look at what initially inspired the founders of the Church Street Marketplace. Bill Truex is joined by Pat Robins, the chair of the Church Street Marketplace Commission, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, former Burlington mayor Peter Clavelle, Ernie Pomerleau of Pomerleau Real Estate, and many others who were instrumental in developing the initial concepts.

Part 2 describes how the idea for closing the street evolved and the early tests that made it happen. The video features Bill Truex and Pat Robins, the chair of the Church Street Marketplace Commission, who talk about the early experiments with closing the street in the 1970s. Some of the first special events that experimented with closing the street to automobiles included arts and crafts festivals. These events were a big success and were instrumental in paving the way for permanently closing the street a few years later.

Part 3 tells the story of the investment and construction. The construction of the pedestrian marketplace was a major disruption to the downtown businesses at the time, but with perseverance and creative thinking, the merchants and customers made the best of a difficult situation. This is the story of a successfully managed project in the middle of perhaps the busiest commercial block in the state!


And the 4th and final video talks about the role of the Church Street marketplace today. 30 years after its initial construction, this is an area that has become an arts and cultural destination, an economic engine for the city (and the state), and an award-winning example of great urban design, one of the 10 Great Public Spaces in America according to the American Planning Association.

You can see more photos of the drawings, models and demonstration projects from the 1970s in this blog post we published last year.