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WEYMOUTH – It wasn’t all that long ago that hopes for a commercial development boom taking off at SouthField were flaming out on the old, cracked runway of the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station.
Plans for the $1 billion redevelopment of the World War II-era airbase had ground to a halt with a master developer and quasi-governmental oversight agency pointing fingers at each other over the fact that no company or commercial developer wanted to buy a piece of SouthField.
But now, a year into its ownership of the 1,400-acre property, new master developer LStar Communities has upped the ante, winning approval for zoning changes in Weymouth and Rockland that have more than doubled the maximum amount of commercial space. A third zoning proposal slated to go before Abington Town Meeting on Monday could bump that maximum up to triple the original 2 million-square-foot ceiling.
LStar recently scored the project’s first commercial tenant and company officials say they’re confident they can get the proposed commercial space built and filled. Meanwhile, officials in the three towns are hungry for a long awaited payday that could mean millions in new tax revenue.
Matthew Barry, LStar’s New England Division president, said LStar has seen a spike in interest from companies interested in moving to the former base since Weymouth’s approval of new zoning last fall and Rockland’s last month.
“These changes really have changed the marketplace,” he said. “We’re very confident based on the interest that came almost immediately.”
The former airbase includes land in Weymouth, Rockland and Abington.
Plans for SouthField had included 2,855 homes and apartments and 900,000 to 2 million square feet of commercial space. A legislative overhaul of the stalled project in 2014 scrapped the old oversight agency, created a new one and gave each town the authority to directly tax its own piece of the property. It also left open the ability for each town to independently increase the commercial space on its portion.
North Carolina-based LStar bought the property a year ago and sought to rebuild confidence in the ailing project, crafting a new vision for SouthField with bigger, taller condominium buildings instead of single-family homes and more office, retail and corporate buildings.
The Weymouth Town Council approved new zoning for 1,000 additional housing units and another 1 million square feet of commercial space last fall. Rockland selectmen last month approved a switch from 300 homes to the same number of condominiums plus the addition of up to 2 million square feet of commercial space.
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