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Developers agree to buy South Boston power plant site

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The century-old power station sits at the corner of Summer and East 1st streets in South Boston.
The century-old power station sits at the corner of Summer and East 1st streets in South Boston.(David L. Ryan)

A Southie landmark is set to change hands soon.

Exelon Corp. has a deal to sell its New Boston Generating Station — the century-old power plant whose smokestacks loom above Summer and East 1st streets — to Hilco Global and the Boston developer Redgate Real Estate. The sale is set to close by the end of June.

The buyers are not yet prepared to disclose their redevelopment plans, said Gary Epstein, a spokesman for Hilco, a Chicago-area financial services conglomerate whose redevelopment arm specializes in "maximizing the value of obsolete industrial sites."

Redgate's most recent work includes apartment buildings in Chelsea and Quincy.

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The 18-acre waterfront property is in a valuable location, with development surging nearby in South Boston. The plant sits near the Reserved Channel, on the side opposite the Seaport District.

"It's a terrific piece of real estate," Epstein said. "The vision is to do something exciting there."

Hilco and Redgate beat out at least a half-dozen bidders for the plant, which Exelon rarely uses and put up for sale earlier this year. Terms of the deal were not available Monday, and it was unclear if environmental issues at the site may have kept the price down.

Both Epstein and an Exelon spokesman said the bidding was "competitive."

Developing the site could prove complex.

The plant, built in 1892 to burn coal, was later converted to oil and then to natural gas before being largely retired in 2007. There have been numerous spills and chemical releases at the property, and environmental cleanup activities included the removal of oil tanks and 4,500 tons of contaminated soil.

Last year, the US Environmental Protection Agency reported that the cleanup was complete and health risks had been "adequately addressed," at least for the site's use as a power plant. A 2001 order from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection blocked part of the site for housing uses, though a spokesman said that ban could be lifted with additional cleanup.

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That's the kind of work Hilco specializes in. The company has redeveloped a number of former auto plant sites and is leading the conversion of a 3,400-acre shuttered steel plant in Baltimore into a logistics center. Earlier this year in Waltham, Hilco bought the 8.2-acre site of the former Standard Thomson Co., which made industrial gauges, to turn it into office space.

The South Boston power plant includes a collection of huge buildings cobbled together over decades. Some are windowless metal boxes, while others are made of brick and have soaring arched windows and ornate tiling inside. Epstein said the company will keep what it can as part of a new development.

"We work very hard to take care of our sites' rich history and any kind of historically significant structures," Epstein said.


Tim Logan can be reached at tim.logan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bytimlogan.