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Malden ballpark lease worth $20 million over 40 years

Posted by Jarret Bencks  December 17, 2012 06:09 PM

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Developers planning to build a $50 million minor league baseball park on an old National Grid gas plant site in Malden will pay about $20 million over the course of a 40-year lease with the utility provider, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by the Globe.

Mayor Gary Christenson, US Representative Ed Markey, Attorney General Martha Coakley and Massachusetts National Grid President Marcy Reed celebrated the agreement at Malden City Hall Monday afternoon by signing Louisville Slugger baseball bats.

Markey, who has lived four streets over from the proposed development site on Commercial Street his entire life, has high hopes for the project.

"This is the best day for Malden in my 36 years of being a congressman for this city," Markey said Monday. "This is a moment that is going to be the transformation of this city."

Development Group Boston Baseball Field of Dreams LLC, led by lawyer Alexander Bok, plans to build a 6,500-seat park to host a team in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, a minor league that is not affiliated with Major League Baseball. The group is eyeing a grand opening in 2015, but obstacles remain before that can happen.

The National Grid site takes up 6.4 acres, but the design Bok's group has put forward requires the acquisition of three other parcels totaling 2.7 acres. The lots are home to L&L Services at 11 Canal St., Spadafora's Auto Parts at 129 Charles St. and Collex auto body repair at 124 Centre St.

On Monday, Bok described the other parcel owners as "fierce" negotiators, who were previously unwilling to engage in serious talks until the National Grid parcel was purchased.

"We're at stage 1A," Bok said. "Now that we're real, we'll see what happens with that."

Under the agreement with National Grid, Bok's development group will pay only $100 until a completion date on the park is agreed upon, or until permanent Certificate of Occupancy is issued.

Once that happens, the group will pay $100,000 in its first year of operation, $200,000 in its second, $325,000 in its third and the previous year's rate plus a 2.5 percent increase each year after, according to the agreement.

The lease will run 40 years, with the developer having an opportunity to renew the lease for 10 years for the following four decades.

Coakley had to sign off on the lease because the site, which has been a gas plant since the 19th century, needs environmental remediation. An agreement had been worked out with National Grid, Coakley said, but its details were not available Monday.

The terms of the lease had previously been approved by both parties and the Malden Redevelopment Authority in November, but the financial figures had not been made public because Coakley had not yet approved the deal.

Bok said the park is expected to produce about 125 part-time jobs during the six-month season, along with about 25 permanent, full-time employees.

Before signing the commemorative bats, Christenson said the project was viewed as an economic driver for the city. Plans are in the works to host public forums on the proposed project and conduct citizen surveys in coming weeks, he said.

"I believe this project has the potential to not only revitalize this site, but serve as an economic catalyst for the entire downtown," Christenson said.

Jarret Bencks can be reached at bencks.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on twitter @JarretBencks.

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