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Ballpark in Malden one step closer to reality

Mayor Gary Christenson signs a bat at a press conference on the agreement to build a minor league ballpark.

Josh Reynolds for the Boston Globe

Mayor Gary Christenson signs a bat at a press conference on the agreement to build a minor league ballpark.

Developers planning to build a $50 million 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 Government Center Monday afternoon by signing Louisville Slugger  bats.

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Markey, a Democrat 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 6,372-seat park  at 100 Commercial St. 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.

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The National Grid site takes up 6.4 acres, but the design for the park 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 group would pay only $100 until a completion date on the park is finalized, or until a permanent certificate of occupancy  is issued.

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

Malden Mayor Gary Christenson spoke during a press conference to announce an agreement to build a minor league ballpark on a former National Grid site in downtown Malden.

JOSH REYNOLDS FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE

Malden Mayor Gary Christenson spoke during a press conference to announce an agreement to build a minor league ballpark on a former National Grid site in downtown Malden.

The lease would 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 — contains contaminents and requires environmental remediation. An agreement has been worked out with National Grid, Coakley said, but its details were not available Monday. The site has been vacant since the utility moved to another site in Malden earlier this year.

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 released because Coakley had not yet approved the deal.

Bok said the park — located in close proximity to the Malden Center Station on the MBTA Orange Line — is expected to produce about 125 part-time jobs during the six-month season, along with about 25 permanent,  full-time positions. In addition to hosting about 70  games per year, the park also would host concerts and perhaps graduations, Bok said.

The Atlantic League currently has eight teams, which averaged about 4,400  in attendance last year, according to figures from the league.

Plans are in the works to host city-run public forums on the proposed project and conduct citizen surveys in coming weeks, Christenson said Monday. It would eventually have to go through the zoning approval process and meet other city requirements.

Before signing the commemorative bats, Christenson said the project was viewed as an economic driver for the city.

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

Jarret Bencks can be reached at Bencks.Globe@gmail.com.
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