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    Former Polartec plant auctioned for $5.35 million

    ** FILE ** The exterior of the Malden Mills factory in Lawrence, Mass. is shown in this Nov. 29, 2001, file photo. The firm seeking bankruptcy court approval to buy Malden Mills Industries Inc. plans to operate the century-old textile maker under the Polartec name, a brand better known than the maker of high-tech fabric for customers including Patagonia and the U.S. military. Polartec LLC will be the name of the privately held company after its expected emergence from Chapter 11 reorganization, expected to occur around March 5, Greg Segall, managing partner of Chrysalis Capital Partners, said Friday, Feb. 23, 2007. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
    AP
    The exterior of the Polartec building in 2001, when it was known as Malden Mills.

    The former Polartec textile plant straddling Methuen and Lawrence has been auctioned off for $5.35 million to two California real estate investors hoping to turn the nearly 15-acre campus into an industrial innovation hub.

    Fremont, Calif.-based real estate broker Jitender Makkar confirmed to the Globe that he and his business partner, Kevin Singh, had the winning bid for the nearly 600,000-square-foot factory, which once housed Malden Mills. Details of the auction, which had a starting price of $1.5 million, are not yet public because the process requires the property be held in escrow for up to 30 days, according to a spokesman for Ten-X, the online commercial real estate platform used for the May 8-10 auction.

    If the sale is finalized, it will be the duo’s first East Coast investment, said Makkar, who owns a brokerage firm in Fremont. He declined to go into detail about his background, but said he has “been in many different industries, [including] high-tech industries,” and that his partners come from a “heavy industrial background as well. It is a great fit for us.”

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    Makkar said he has “several uses in mind,” for the plant, where Polartec fleece was manufactured until last year when Polartec LLC laid off more than 200 workers and moved its operations to Tennessee.

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    “It’s time to create more jobs in this area. We want to create an industrial innovation hub,” Makkar said. “The property has outstanding infrastructure; that is what makes this a most exciting project for us. We want young innovative ideas to come here and use the infrastructure at a relatively low cost and low risk for them. We are creating an incubation center for the young generation.”

    Makkar said he wants to rename the plant IndusPAD.

    Makkar and Singh last week met for the first time with Methuen and Lawrence officials. The bulk of the plant sits in Methuen, but its entrance is on Stafford Street in Lawrence.

    Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera said Makkar and Singh appeared excited about the property and potential tenants. He said that whatever occupies the site should “one, bring jobs; two, be something that doesn’t negatively impact the neighborhood; and three, lifts the brand of the city of Lawrence.”

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    Methuen Mayor Stephen N. Zanni and William Buckley, the city’s director of economic and community development, also met with Makkar and Singh.

    “We’re trying to get familiar with what their vision is and we look forward to working with them to help attract new jobs to the city,” Buckley said. “You have to be hopeful.”

    He said the $5.35 million bid was lower than many people anticipated. The property had been marketed for sale by brokerage firm Avison Young for the past several months before it was listed for auction. Philadelphia-based private equity firm Versa Capital Management, which owns Polartec LLC, 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.

    Aaron Feuerstein, the third-generation owner of Malden Mills, made global headlines two decades ago when he continued to pay employees’ salaries after a fire gutted the facility and halted operations.

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