The Church Street Marketplace is a four-block pedestrian mall in Burlington, Vermont featuring almost a hundred storefronts that are predominantly local businesses, and the site of festivals throughout the year.
The American Planning Association named the Church Street Marketplace one of America's "Great Public Spaces" for 2008.
Each year the Marketplace attracts 3 million visitors to shop, eat, meet and greet, mark milestones, or just pass the time of day.
Fountains, public art, and locally quarried boulders enhance the streetscape. Street vendors and entertainers keep the atmosphere lively. In warm months, outdoor cafes host people watching or conversing with friends. Festivals add excitement. The Magic Hat Mardi Gras Parade kicks things off in February, followed in June by the city's Discover Jazz Festival. On the day after Thanksgiving, more than 10,000 gather to watch the illumination of more than 200,000 white lights along the four-block-long Marketplace.
The outdoor mall concept for Church Street Marketplace originated in 1958 as part of urban renewal discussions. It wasn't until 1971, when an experimental closure of the four-block area demonstrated the mall's feasibility, that planners, street and traffic engineers, and downtown merchants began their cooperative planning effort.
Several plans were scrapped because of complaints from citizens and business owners. Planning efforts continued, taking residents' concerns into account, until an acceptable plan emerged. In 1979, voters approved changes to the city charter to establish the Church Street Marketplace District and the Marketplace Commission. It took two attempts, however, before voters approved a $1.5 million bond issue for the mall in October 1979. With support from U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy for $5.4 million in federal funds from the former Urban Mass Transportation Administration, local officials moved ahead. Leahy has secured an additional $7.8 million in U.S. Department of Transportation funding over the past decade to upgrade and expand Church Street.
During 16 months of construction, which was completed in September 1981, not one business along Church Street moved or closed; retail sales in the area showed no decline.