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Economic Developer Announces $50K State Grant to Help Firm Up Resiliency of Burlington’s ‘Major Commercial Hub’

At Monday night’s Select Board meeting, Burlington Director of Economic Development Melisa Tintocalis gave the board a presentation about what her office has been doing to help foster economic growth in the Mall Road and Middlesex Turnpike areas including announcing a $50,000 grant from the state.

Tintocalis called the area the “major commercial hub” of Burlington and started the presentation by outlining the details of what is currently located there, pointing out that it is not dominated by retail as many people think.

“This makes up over 8 million square feet of commercial space but as much as we think of it as the mall area the majority is office,” Tintocalis said, adding that the breakdown of the area is 61 percent office, 23 percent retail and restaurants, 7 percent hotels, 4 percent industrial, 4 percent medical center and 1 percent residential.

She added that currently there is about 9.6 percent vacant space in the area’s office buildings, a number that aligns with similar towns and cities in the state.

Tintocalis also spoke about the current condition of the Burlington Mall. She said it is at 90 percent occupancy and has recently seen strong foot traffic though it is not back to pre-pandemic levels. Currently there are five stores under construction and 12 others in the queue to start over the next six months.

Tintocalis then outlined activities her office has done in regards to this area. These include working with the Urban Land Institute and Mass Development to create a detailed report. They have also engaged with the local hotels to build stronger relationships, worked on expanding outdoor seating to benefit restaurants and helped get zoning change to allow for more experiential type businesses, especially at the mall.

She then spoke of the grant that was just being announced that evening.

“The Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs has awarded the town $50,000 based on the work that has been done to date on the Mall Road Corridor,” she said. “This will allow us to start moving forward on a new regulatory framework to help us start thinking of the Mall Road and Middlesex Turnpike to make us more resilient in the future. That’s what that money will help us do.”

She said one possible initiative included reevaluating unused parking lots in the area for possible future development. Some of these, especially if the town would like to approve lab space for life science companies, could require zoning changes. The studying of these issues will be part of the grant fund uses.