Town meeting pegs Reebok HQ as Priority Development Site

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Town meeting voters on Monday night approved the Reebok parcel as Canton’s newest 43D Priority Development Site — a powerful state economic development tool and one that the town has used successfully on several past occasions.

The Reebok sign on Royall St. could soon be replaced with another company's logo. (Michelle Stark photo)

The Reebok sign on Royall St. could soon be replaced with another company’s logo. (Michelle Stark photo)

On the advice of Gene Manning, chairman of the Economic Development Committee (EDC) and someone who has sheparded many of these 43D projects, the town will have some input into the next owner of the sprawling 65-acre site, located at 1895 JW Foster Boulevard, along with an adjoining parcel at 100 Royall Street. Manning said once the entire parcel is sold, “It could be [Canton’s] biggest real estate transaction in the last 20 years.”

Manning said Reebok International, owned by the Adidas Group, pays the town $1.3 million annually in taxes. The company has hired real estate brokerage firm CBRE New England to market the property and is being assisted by the Massachusetts Office of Economic Development.

Reebok announced in November of 2016 that it will begin vacating the campus in September as it moves 700 employees to a new 220,000-square-foot headquarters in the Boston Seaport District in a commercial mixed-use office complex called the Innovation & Design Building.

Reebok’s Canton campus spans 680,000 square feet across four buildings. The central office is 518,000 square feet surrounded by three smaller buildings and two above-ground parking structures. The campus also includes indoor and outdoor basketball courts, outdoor tennis courts, a baseball diamond, and an outdoor running track.

The 43D application was submitted by selectmen on behalf of the EDC. Town Administrator Charlie Aspinwall and Manning have been serving as the liaisons for the town with Reebok.

As a 43D project, the new owners will have a single point of contact (selectmen) when they apply for new permits and will have the application reviewed and a decision issued within 180 days of submission. In the past, Manning has led the process for 43D projects and has also been the point person with businesses that wish to work out a long-term tax plan with the Board of Assessors and selectmen.

In other news from Monday’s opening session of town meeting, voters authorized selectmen to lease the historic David Tilden House at Pequitside Farm and the Revere rolling mill and barn at the former Plymouth Rubber site to a private operator.

Regarding the Revere buildings, the town’s Paul Revere Heritage Commission has proposed the development of a museum/cultural center and theme restaurant on the property, and the Finance Committee agreed with selectmen that the town should not attempt to manage the attraction itself. Instead, they will look to enter into a long-term partnership with one or more private groups that have staff experienced in these professional management and hospitality operations.

The town hired Cambridge-based ConsultEcon to investigate the feasibility of the project, and in March the firm offered a public vote of confidence, calling it a “great project” with considerable potential. However, the plan is still in the development stages with many financial and operational issues to be determined.

The leasing of the Tilden House was backed by the FinCom, Conservation Commission (which manages Pequitside Farm), Historical Commission, and historian George Comeau, who has led the project for many years. The article authorizes selectmen to sign a lease for a term not to exceed 30 years.

Comeau said the goal of the article is to lease the 300-year-old property to a highly qualified nonprofit organization that could complete the extensive renovations to the structure but has an understanding and respect for the historical significance of the building. In 2015, town meeting voters authorized $414,000 in Community Preservation Act funds for phase one of the renovations. A detailed historic structures report has been completed as part of the phase one work.

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