Thursday, January 11, 2007

Air base project gets conditional OK

State wants details on cleanup, impact
By Emily Sweeney, Globe Staff | January 11, 2007

Developers of the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station have won initial state environmental approval -- it came on Dec. 15 -- but several hurdles remain before the suburban commuter village named SouthField becomes a reality.

State Environmental Secretary Robert W. Golledge Jr. , in his 24-page approval of the development's draft enviro n mental impact report, wrote that SouthField is "a project that has the potential to establish a new standard for environmentally responsible development," but that the developers need to provide more detailed information in their final report.

Specifically, he asked for updates on the hazardous waste sites, more details about the proposed roadway that will be built, and additional analysis of the project's impact on wetlands.

The final environmental impact report "should briefly summarize measures that will be implemented to recognize and respond to unknown hazardous waste sites and cite plans . . . that identify specific measures to be implemented," Golledge wrote.

Golledge also requested that the developers work closely with town officials in Weymouth, Abington, and Rockland to address concerns about traffic as the former World War II blimp base is transformed into what is believed to be the largest planned community in New England.

"We're going to work hard to meet those conditions," said Bill Ryan, the former Weymouth selectman who works as a consultant for the developer, LNR Property Corp. "We're optimistic that there's not any showstoppers in there."

LNR is still negotiating with the Navy on getting rights to the rest of the property.

There are 10 Superfund sites on the base, and the Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Environmental Protection are overseeing the Navy's environmental cleanup. Plans to clean up five of those contaminated sites are still being finalized.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has been evaluating cases of multiple sclerosis near the former air station, and a report is scheduled to released in the next few months.

Tonight, the South Weymouth Naval Air Station Restoration Advisory Board will hold its regular monthly meeting to discuss the environmental issues and clean up activities at the former military base, the largest underdeveloped parcel on the South Shore.

The property is approximately 1.5 square miles, about the size of Boston's financial district and Back Bay combined. In phases over the next 10 years, LNR Property Corp. aims to build 2,855 houses and condos, 2 million square feet of commercial space, a sports center, a golf course, and recreation fields . The sweeping redevelopment plan has earned praise from the Massachusetts Office for Commonwealth Development, which gave it a 2006 Smart Growth Award in December.
LNR has permission to start a portion of the project -- construction of 500 housing units -- and a 150,000-square-foot office complex is expected to begin in the fall, according to Ryan.

Already the entrance to the old base is getting a makeover. The guard shack that faced Route 18 has been demolished, gray stone walls are being installed, and a landscaped entry way will soon display the site's new name: SouthField.
LNR Property Corp. has tapped the marketing power of Cushman & Wakefield to lure potential tenants to the new development.

SouthField now has its own website,, featuring interactive maps, illustrations of people pedaling bicycles through the "SouthField Highlands" neighborhood, and detailed information on development opportunities ranging from residential townhouses to biopharmaceutical manufacturing facilities.

The South Weymouth Naval Air Station Restoration Advisory Board will hold its monthly meeting tonight at 7 in the conference center on Shea Memorial Drive. To view the project's draft environmental impact report, go to

Emily Sweeney can be reached at
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