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November 24, 2013

Sources: New York-Based Firm to Take Over Burlington Town Center

Burlington Town Center, the 230,000-square-foot Church Street shopping mall, is being sold to New York City real-estate investment firm with Vermont ties, two sources tell Seven Days.

Both persons requested anonymity because neither the prospective buyer, Devonwood Investors, nor the seller, Chicago-based General Growth Properties, has announced the deal, which is scheduled to close on December 15.

Mayor Miro Weinberger said in an interview this weekend that he could not provide details on the transaction, including its price, because “it needs to be understood as preliminary.” The purchasers have "not put forward a detailed plan of what they intend to do,” the mayor added.

Weinberger did say that one of the principals in the deal “has spent a considerable amount of time in Burlington.”

Devonwood Investors, which describes itself on its website as “an operating partner for opportunistic real estate transactions,” lists Donald F. Sinex as one of the leaders of its team. The firm was founded in 1997.

Sinex, who could not be reached for comment this weekend, appears to have a residence in Rutland, which is also the location of the Sinex Education Foundation. The Vermont Directory of Foundations identifies Donald Sinex as donor of the foundation, which is said to make donations “primarily for educational purposes for young children.”

The foundation’s assets totaled $747,586 at the end of 2011, according to the online directory. One of the sources confirmed to Seven Days that Sinex provides the firm's connection to Vermont. 

While declining to discuss the principals involved in the sale, Weinberger did say “they seem to understand what the city wants to do on Cherry Street and see that as adding value to their property.”

In keeping with the city’s Plan BTV vision for a more pedestrian-oriented downtown, the Cherry Street corridor alongside Burlington Town Center would be refashioned as a major passageway linking the Marketplace and the waterfront.

The prospective buyers of the mall are “talking of filling in some of the dead space, adding retail and repurposing some of the parking spaces along Cherry Street,” Weinberger said.

According to Devonwood's website, it raised its first closed-end investment fund in 2009 to "opportunistically invest its own and its partners' capital in distressed and undervalued real estate primarily in the office, hotel, retail and residential sector."

 General Growth Properties, the current owner of Burlington Town Center, went into bankruptcy in 2009 because it couldn't refinance $27 billion in debt. The company, which used to own South Street Seaport in New York City and Faneuil Hall in Boston, emerged from Chapter 11 a year later.


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