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Boston real estate firm signs agreement to buy Garelick Farms on the Lynnway

Lynn, MA. The Lynnway Garelick Farms location. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNN — A Boston real estate investment firm has signed a deal to purchase the sprawling Garelick Farms plant on the Lynnway.

A.W. Perry said it plans to initially use the 17-acre parcel for light industry before setting its sights on a mixed-use development with waterfront apartments, retail, restaurants and possibly a hotel.

“We like the real estate dynamic and resurgence in Lynn,” said Robert Maloney, the company’s executive vice president. “There was a time nobody would invest in Somerville, now Assembly Row is thriving. Lynn is a natural to be next.”

Lynn attorney James Moore, who was retained by the company to negotiate zoning changes for the Garelick property, confirmed Wednesday that a purchase and sale agreement was signed by Garelick owner, Texas-based Dean Foods, and A.W. Perry.

He said the sale is contingent on Lynn City Council approval of zoning changes that are expected to be filed within a week.

Garelick is zoned for dairy manufacturing. The change would allow warehouse use and light manufacturing.

Still, it won’t be easy to transform the manufacturing campus into the next mixed-use neighborhood to rival Assembly Square.

“The site has its challenges,” Maloney said. “It’s located next to a wastewater treatment plant and a transfer station. There’s an interesting bouquet of scents that would make it impossible for any of those uses to make economic sense today.”

Maloney pledged to work with the city who have told him they are trying to create solutions for the plant and the transfer station. In the meantime, he said, they will use the site as is.

Garelick leaves behind a 40,000-square-foot warehouse, 60,000 square feet of cold storage, a processing plant, and a 10-acre lot at the rear of the building.

“There has been interest from caterers and food service companies,” he said. “Our immediate plan is to clean the site, work with what’s there, and that should enable us to make enough money to hold the site long enough to see the future.”

A closing is expected in the fall.

James M. Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development & Industrial Corp. (Lynn/EDIC), said the parties signed the agreement Tuesday night. The selling price was not disclosed.

“They are a solid company with a proven track record,” he said. “I am looking forward to working with them on creating many jobs there.”

In December, Cowdell said 10 potential developers expressed interest in the Garelick property.

Mayor Thomas M. McGee said A.W. Perry representatives understand city officials have a bigger vision for the Garelick site.

“They are very open to a bigger, broader vision,” he said. “It’s really a unique opportunity for Lynn.”

The potential purchase marks the next significant step in the Lynnway’s emergence as a prime development opportunity. Plans for a large residential project at the Lynnway’s North Harbor, opposite North Shore Community College, are underway where contractors are building a seawall.

Adjacent property owner Patrick McGrath has residential plans for two Lynnway parcels including the former Porthole Restaurant and the Merchandise Mart near the General Edwards Bridge.

A Lynnway manufacturing landmark since 1998 and formerly known as West Lynn Creamery, Garelick closed last fall and 300 workers were laid off. MassHire North Shore Career moved quickly to help the workers, many of whom live in Lynn, find new jobs.

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