"Urban Renewal" Film Is Window into Lost Burlington | Arts News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

"Urban Renewal" Film Is Window into Lost Burlington 

State of the Arts

Published October 31, 2007 at 4:42 p.m.

Last week, the Orton Family Foundation of Middlebury and a Colorado partner organization put on a sustainability conference, called "COMMUNITYMATTERS07," at Burlington's Lake and College Building. Though it had an unneighborly $450 registration fee, the green gala offered a few events to the public.

One of them, a community-oriented "mini-film series," took place on Tuesday evening at the Waterfront Theatre. The three-hour affair, which attracted about 25 viewers, featured four documentary films on such hot topics as sprawl, local food systems and vanishing mountain villagers. One of them, "The Champlain Street Urban Renewal Project," offered an astonishing view of a neighborhood that once was.

The half-hour film, which was released in 2002 by first-time director Patrick Farrington, documents a controversial building craze that swept Burlington in the 1950s and '60s. Itching for funding from the feds, city planners agreed to raze a working-class section of downtown Burlington to make room for office buildings and condominiums. "A lot of those homes that they destroyed could have been restored," notes one elderly woman at film's end, reflecting back on the project. "You know what I say? They paved paradise and made it a parking lot."

Though a little rough around the edges, the documentary is a surprisingly moving piece of investigative reporting, alternating between archival footage and contemporary interviews with disgruntled former residents.

Farrington attended Tuesday's screening. During a follow-up Q&A session, audience members bombarded him with the usual inquiries about inspiration and creative process. Farrington explained that he found out about the project from his mother, whose childhood home was replaced by the Chittenden Bank.

The director, a local freelance producer who normally does "corporate stuff," says he never expected such a strong reaction from the Burlington community. The film drew a packed, emotionally charged audience in 2004 at the Firehouse Gallery, and it's now shown every year at Burlington College. To accommodate persistent requests for DVD copies, Farrington's brother began selling copies of the film on his website, www.crookedroot.com.

"I had no idea the impact this short film would have on the community," Farrington says. "My goal with it was to just make a documentary - to see if I could tell a story."

Is the film available at downtown stores? Hard to say. "Borders," Farrington says with a laugh, "just doesn't call me when it runs out."

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

More By This Author

About The Author

Mike Ives

Mike Ives

Mike Ives was a staff writer for Seven Days from January 2007 until October 2009.


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative

All content © 2022 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401

Advertising Policy  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us  |  About Us  |  Help
Website powered by Foundation