By Bob Salsberg, Associated PressBy Bill Shields

BOSTON (AP) — A long-stalled plan to redevelop a former Naval air station south of Boston appears ready to move forward after the U.S. Navy reached final agreement to sell the remaining property it owns for $25 million, Massachusetts officials and members of the state’s congressional delegation said Monday.

The Southfield development calls for construction of nearly 3,000 homes, along with retail and office space. The project is expected to create about 10,000 permanent and temporary construction jobs over the next decade, backers said.

The deal with the South Shore Tri-Town Development Corp. was expected to be formally signed on Tuesday, with a closing scheduled for next month.

WBZ-TV’s Bill Shields reports

Negotiations over the future of the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station have dragged on for well over a decade. The station shut down in 1997 after falling victim two years earlier to a round of military base closings by the Pentagon.

South Shore Tri-Town Development, a semi-independent agency, was formed in 1998 to oversee development of the 1,400-acre site. In 2002, the agency picked LNR Property LLC to serve as the master developer for the site.

LNR already has built some homes on the more than 500 acres that the Navy had earlier transferred at no cost, but the sale of the remaining acreage bogged down over environmental and financial concerns.

“Good things come to those who don’t wait but negotiate, and in this case it’s going to mean jobs and economic development,” U.S. Sen. John Kerry said in a statement. “This day is more than 13 years in the making, and I’m as happy about this final agreement as any tough negotiation I’ve experienced in 26 years in the Senate.”

An environmental reuse plan for the former base was approved by the Navy in 1999 but later rejected by state environmental officials. A revised plan won approval in 2008, but the recession and real estate crash complicated negotiations to reach a final sale price, Kerry said.

“We can now bring the full master plan, the full development to fruition, to allow a live-work-play experience that will be very unique in New England,” said Kevin Chase, regional vice president of LNR. The plan calls for a golf course, sports and recreation facility and 2 million square feet of commercial space.

Southfield’s location, about 12 miles from Boston and close to a commuter rail line, will make it an attractive residential option as the housing market begins to stabilize in the coming years, Chase said.

The total cost of the project, including the homes already built, is pegged at about $2.5 billion, the developer said. While most of that will come through private investment, including more than $100 million already invested by LNR, the project received a $45 million grant from the state last year and the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy previously secured $8 million in federal funding for transit improvements.

“Southfield is the largest active development anywhere in this area, and its long term importance to the region and the Commonwealth cannot be understated,” said U.S. Rep. William Keating, who represents the district.

In its heyday, the air station was a training ground for more than 1,500 military personnel and 300 civilian employees.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.


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