News

Finney lands another heavy hitter

Shoppers walk into LL Bean store in Burlington, Vermont on Tuesday, August 3, 2021.

 L.L. Bean to open Williston store 

 BY JASON STARR 

Observer staff 

Finney Crossing developers broke ground in July on a 25,000-square-foot commercial building fronting Route 2 in Williston and landed L.L. Bean to occupy the majority of the space. 

According to Finney Crossing developer Scott Rieley, L.L. Bean, an outdoor equipment retailer and outfitter based in Maine, will open a 15,000-square-foot store. The remaining 10,000 square feet will be portioned into two-to-four commercial units. It’s a similar setup to the building completed last year within the development anchored by Healthy Living market. 

“We are excited L.L. Bean has chosen Finney Crossing to locate their new store,” Rieley said. “I think they will be a great addition to the retail landscape.” 

L.L Bean will compete in the outdoor equipment market with the likes of R.E.I. and Dick’s Sporting Goods, also located in Williston’s Taft Corners area. 

The new building is expected to be complete next summer. It will add to the commercial mix within Finney Crossing that includes a hotel, bank and Healthy Living, built over the past two years. A Folino’s pizza restaurant is under construction. The development also has about 800 residential apartments and condominiums. 

Last month, the developers received preliminary approval from the town’s Development Review Board for another restaurant building and a 73-unit senior housing building. The restaurant, to be built between the hotel and Healthy Living, will be a second location of Railroad and Main, which has its original location in Essex Junction. The senior housing building will be restricted to people aged 55 and older and will have an on-site manager, food service, dining area and laundry service, Rieley said. 

Rieley sits on the Development Review Board, but is no longer the board chair — a role he held for several years. He has recused himself from voting on Finney Crossing development applications. 

According to a report in VTDigger, the L.L. Bean store will be a relocation of the downtown Burlington L.L. Bean, which opened in 2014. The move will leave behind another empty storefront in the continually depleting Burlington Town Center Mall properties, owned by developer Don Sinex. The Burlington Town Center storefronts only have one tenant remaining — a Starbucks. 

Sinex said in an email to VTDigger that it hurts to see L.L. Bean leaving, but that he knew about the move for some time. He said years of delays to the CityPlace construction project, which originally was going to feature a retail complex next to the L.L. Bean location, but has since been simplified to primarily apartments, partially led to the exit of the L.L. Bean store. 

Sinex said he also suspects that the store’s operators were unhappy with “unusually high theft” it saw in its Burlington store compared to others in the chain and “general problems related to homelessness.” 

“As for the impact to BTC, the L.L. Bean move will put further financial strain on the old mall, which is already suffering tremendously financially and in my opinion this will be the final nail in its casket,” Sinex said. 

“Because we have been aware of the plan to relocate its L.L. Bean store to Williston,” he added, “we at BTC will accelerate our plan to redevelop the old BTC mall from Church street to the new St. Paul Street.” 

A spokesperson for L.L. Bean told VTDigger in an email that it will be relocating its Burlington employees to its Williston location. 

“We appreciate the loyalty our employees and customers have shown to us in Burlington over the past seven years and look forward to reopening in Williston next year,” the spokesperson wrote. 

WCAX first reported news of the move earlier Monday. 

— Grace Elletson of VTDigger contributed to this report