In the 1970s Church Street was the main shopping street in downtown Burlington. Choked by automobile traffic and threatened with the prospect of new shopping malls proposed at interstate exits just outside of town, Church Street was in decline and would have probably been abandoned like many downtown shopping districts throughout the northeast but for the brilliant idea of a local architect named Bill Truex. Bill had visited Copenhagen in 1962 and witnessed the successful conversion of a city street there into a pedestrian mall. Why not close off Church Street and turn it into a similar pedestrian mall he thought out loud.
With the assistance of the president of the downtown business association, Pat Robbins, in 1980 they convinced the City Council to approve a trial temporary street closing. Open air restaurants and retail merchandise soon appeared on the closed portion of the street and clearly demonstrated the wisdom of Bill’s idea. With the assistance of U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy and his former chief of staff, Paul Bruen, the Church Street Marketplace debuted in 1981 with two blocks closed to car traffic. The Marketplace was later extended to the four blocks you see today.
Since that time this pedestrian Mall has become more and more popular with locals and tourists alike with its eclectic mix of small shops and open air cafes and restaurants, saving downtown Burlington from the ravages of competing interstate exit malls. Today the Church Street Marketplace is a bustling hive of busy shoppers and diners from 9 a.m. until well past midnight seven days a week. Whereas other downtowns in the northeast have turned to ghost towns, Burlington’s Church Street Marketplace is thriving, often with zero vacancy. The Church Street Marketplace is the best and most successful conversion of a city street into a pedestrian mall in the United States today. And the Burlington Town Center Mall connecting to Church Street is about to receive a $200 million injection of cash from Don Sinex, a businessman who recently acquired the mall attracted to the site by the stunning success of the Church Street Marketplace. Stay tuned.
The Church Street Marketplace is another iconic Burlington Landmark that you simply must experience on any visit to Burlington.