The Boston Globe | By Jon Chesto
September 13, 2016
The company that now controls the former South Weymouth air base knew it needed to make a bold offer to win a marquee tenant, so it promised something unusual: The first major commercial tenant to sign on would get its property for free.
That gamble is paying off, and hundreds of jobs are expected. LStar, the North Carolina-based firm in charge of redeveloping the sprawling property, has inked a deal that will bring Netherlands-based Prodrive Technologies to the site.
The electronics manufacturer plans to build a 300,000-square-foot complex over the next two years, with as many as 300 people working there by 2020. Prodrive, known for its robotics expertise, is still growing its reputation in the United States: This will be its first major campus in this country.
One big selling point — aside from the free land — is the ample room for expansion if the company wanted to purchase more land, which it has signaled it probably would do down the line. Prodrive executives said they hope to have as many as 500 people working there by 2025, depending on the success of its US business and the level of public subsidies the firm obtains from the state.
Landing Prodrive solves a problem that vexed the developers of the shuttered base for two decades. Over the years, hundreds of housing units opened on the western edge of the 1,500-acre property, near the South Weymouth train station. But much of the old base, previously known as SouthField but now called Union Point, languished in part due to the lack of a commercial tenant that could act as a magnet.
“Having Prodrive as the first commercial occupant will be a trigger,” said Susan Houston, the executive director of MassEcon, a nonprofit group that helped Prodrive with its site selection. “It will help legitimatize Union Point as a location for future tenants.”