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From Massachusetts Naval Station to Smart City?

Developer LStar is partnering with General Electric to turn a former Navy air base into a functioning smart city.

by Lane Lambert, The Patriot Ledger / October 30, 2017

(TNS) -- WEYMOUTH – As Union Point developer LStar Communities makes a pitch for Amazon's second headquarters, the company's CEO says another futuristic deal is already in the works – a partnership with industrial giant GE to turn the former Navy air base into a cutting-edge "smart city."

LStar CEO and managing partner Kyle Corkum announced the affiliation Friday. He said that in the coming months and years, the installation of GE's high-tech street sensors, solar panels and experimental technology will make Union Point "the best new version of a smart city."

"We're building from scratch, so we can be one of the most innovative cities in the U.S. or the world," he said.

Corkum said the GE deal has been in the works for six months. It comes two years after LStar took control of the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station, which had been named SouthField.

The 1,400-acre property is located just off Route 18. After years of stalled projects under the previous developer, Union Point now has 850 built and occupied residential units. Corkum said the Dutch robotics company Prodrive Technologies will break ground for its 300,000-square-foot U.S. headquarters there by early 2018.

Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund applauded the GE partnership as a move that makes Union Point more attractive for the Amazon bid, and for the possibility that GE itself might come to see Union Point as an expansion site for its future Boston headquarters.

"It's a blank palette for GE to use," Hedlund said of the "smart city" technology. With GE and Prodrive both at Union Point, "it could become a Mecca for high-tech activity."

Corkum said GE's trial runs for experimental technology will begin "almost immediately," starting with street-light sensors that will function as a local GPS navigation system.

He said GE will install different types of traffic sensors on different street lights, "so they can see what works best." If GE researchers develop an untested high-tech application, "they can try it out here in a safe and secure environment."

He said "smart" traffic sensors could also monitor traffic beyond Union Point – for example, to change the green-light cycle from Trotter Road onto Route 18 if an Old Colony commuter-rail train had temporarily stopped road traffic.

Corkum said Union Point is already a test site for driverless vehicles. A 75-year-old resident of the Fairing Way apartments, a woman who never drove, is using one. He said that could be a crucial part of Union Point's transportation system, since half the complex's eventual population will be over 55.

Meanwhile, he said rooftop and ground solar-panel arrays will be installed as residential and commercial construction progresses.

"When we started, we thought of electricity as another piece of the infrastructure, like water and sewer," Corkum said. "GE told us to think differently."

In early 2018, he said LStar will pitch an extension of GE's technology beyond Union Point and into Weymouth, Rockland and Abington, which all include acreage from the former air station.

Corkum said a GE power generator could passively produce electricity from the line, and the power could tapped for police and fire departments and other emergency providers if a hurricane or blizzard knocked out conventional electrical sources.

"GE came to us with that," Corkum said.

©2017 The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Mass. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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