Union Point developer files new master plan proposal

The new master developer for Union Point says its redevelopment plan could ultimately generate between $4-$5 million in annual profits for Abington if the town loosens existing zoning rules and allows housing on the town’s portion of land. 

In a lengthy series of documents posted on the Southfield Redevelopment Authority website, BPD Union Point, LLC, a joint venture led by Brookfield Properties, says it wants to build 8 million square feet of commercial space and 3,855 residential units on the 1,450-acre former air base. That would be in addition to the 1,275 homes and 75,000 square feet of commercial space already located on the property. The Southfield property was rebranded as Union Point in 2016.

By comparison, the 2015 master plan prepared by the previous developer called for at least 900,000 square feet of commercial space and 2,855 housing units, as well as a 10,000-seat sports stadium.

A land use map in the new Union Point master plan. Gold areas are the core development zones. Light yellow are other proposed development areas. Green areas will remain open space.

Exactly what would be built in Abington isn’t specified. In fact, the master plan is asking for flexible zoning rules from the communities that would give it broader latitude to make deals.

“Depending on market demand and conditions, the amount of commercial and residential development within the Developable Area may fluctuate, provided that the infrastructure is sufficient to support such development,” the draft plan states, adding it could reduce the amount of commercial space by 1.3 million square feet while adding 1,000 additional residential units.

A pair of public hearings are scheduled for March 15 and March 29. Both hearings are scheduled for 7 p.m. at 25 Stonehaven Drive, Weymouth.

Abington Town Manager Scott Lambiase said he is still reviewing the contents of the master plan.

Most of the proposed development would be centered in the heart of the abandoned air base along the Delahunt Parkway. It calls for two long, narrow strips of greenspace referred to as the West Meadow and Central Meadow, and the construction of multiple bike and pedestrian paths.

The housing stock would range from dense apartment complexes to townhouses and single-family homes. About 10 percent of the housing stock would be subsidized to help meet state housing affordability numbers. 

Only about 355 of the remaining acres would be developed — including 75 in Abington. The rest of the land would be left as open space. 

If all 3,855 housing units are built, the developer estimates that 76 schoolchildren would live in the complex. That figure assumes that a higher percentage of families with children will settle at Union Point than currently live there.

The plan touches on two sore spots for Abington: residential housing and water usage.

The last time Abington approved zoning for the air base property, it specifically prohibited the construction of residential housing in the town’s portion of land – something the then-developer agreed to.  The town also made it clear, although it wasn’t part of an official vote, that the project – which has struggled to find a permanent water source — shouldn’t count on using water from the Abington/Rockland Joint Water Works.

The 2015 enabling legislation also includes a clause specifically prohibiting the redevelopment from using water sourced from Great Sandy Bottom Pond in Pembroke — one of the three water sources for the Joint Water Works. That means water would have to specifically come from the Hingham Street reservoir or Myers Avenue wellfield.

BPD Union Point said it anticipates eventually tying into the MWRA water system, but that process will take several years. It said it believes the Weymouth water system has enough capacity to temporarily fulfill any needs until the MWRA connecting line is built. However, the master plan does not rule out asking to temporarily use Abington/Rockland water.

The Abington/Rockland Joint Water Works is nearing its state-imposed limits on how much water it can safely provide, and will soon be spending $26 million to rebuild its treatment plants to safely handle PFAS contamination.

The master plan claims full build out would have a positive budgetary impact for Abington, perhaps generating millions in additional revenue beyond any increased municipal expenses. The plan lays out three scenarios: a heavy non-residential scenario featuring a 75%/25% non-residential/residential development split; a balanced scenario, featuring a 50%/50% split; and a residential-heavy scenario with a 25%/75% split.

According to BPD Union Point’s calculations, the three scenarios could generate $4,155,000, $4,785,000, or $5,415,000, respectively, in new net annual revenue for Abington.

The new Union Point master developer claims Abington could net between $4-5 million annually after full build out.

BPD Union Point is at least the fourth master developer to try and redevelop the former South Weyouth Naval Air Base, which closed in 1997. The first plan — for a mega-mall — never got beyond the conceptual phase.

L Star, the last master developer who went down in a flurry of lawsuits and foreclosures, had trouble recruiting commercial and industrial anchor tenants but did bring a few ancillary uses to the property, such as turning an empty hanger into a popular movie soundstage and building a heavily used complex of turf fields.

Brookfield Properties is one of the world’s largest real estate property managers. One of its partners, New England Development, built out Westwood Junction, a large mixed used development located in Westwood off Route 128, as well as the Pinehills development in Plymouth.

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