Business & Tech

Polartec plant to be put up for auction

An employee moved Polartec fabric after it ran through the finishing machine when the company was still known as Malden Mills.
Bill Greene/Globe Staff/File 1996
An employee moved Polartec fabric after it ran through the finishing machine when the company was still known as Malden Mills.

The massive Polartec textile plant straddling nearly 15 acres in Methuen and Lawrence will be up for auction next month with a starting bid of $1.5 million, according to an online listing.

The manufacturing of Polartec fleece at the nearly 600,000-square-foot plant ended last year, when the company, Polartec LLC, laid off more than 200 employees and moved operations to Tennessee.

The auction is scheduled to run from May 8 to May 10 through Ten-X, an online commercial real estate platform. Bidders have to make a $25,000 “participation deposit,” according to the listing.

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Equipment at the plant, including dryers, dyeing machines, and a lint collection system, are already being liquidated through Boston-based Tiger Capital Group LLC.

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Fewer than 10 union employees remain at the facility and are expected to be laid off after the property is sold, said Ethan Snow, chief of staff the New England Joint Board of Unite Here, the union that represents them.

Philadelphia-based private equity firm Versa Capital Management, which owns Polartec LLC, declined to comment on the auction. The firm purchased the property in 2007 for close to $15 million after it bought the then-Malden Mills out of bankruptcy for $44 million and renamed it Polartec.

Malden Mills and its third-generation former owner Aaron Feuerstein made global headlines two decades ago when Feuerstein continued to pay the salaries of thousands of his employees after a blaze gutted the facility and halted operations.

The property has been marketed for sale by brokerage firm Avison Young for the past several months, said William Buckley, Methuen’s director of economic and community development. The firm is also listing the property in the auction. Representatives for Avison Young in charge of the listing did not return calls for comment.

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“Our hope would be that it winds up in the hands of someone who is going to aggressively market the building for reuse,” Buckley said. “It remains an important structure for the city’s long- term economic development plan and we’ll monitor that closely, the disposition of the building. We’ll make sure the new owner works with us for appropriate reuse.”

Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera said he wouldn’t mind seeing the building used by a contract brewer or for some other kind of manufacturing.

“We definitely don’t see this as the end of manufacturing in Lawrence,” Rivera said. “A building this size should be seen as a catch and a huge opportunity.”

The bulk of the 559,868-square-foot plant sits in Methuen and is made up of the two-story Polartec building and another single-story facility. A small portion of the building, including its entrance on Stafford Street, and part of the 378-space parking lot, are in Lawrence.

According to the auction listing, the plant is comprised of 15 percent office space and 85 percent manufacturing/warehouse space.

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Since purchasing the property in 2007, Polartec, which makes fleece apparel for the military and for products sold through retailers including L.L. Bean and Patagonia, has invested $6.2 million in building upgrades, according to the listing.

Katheleen Conti can be reached at kconti@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKConti.