Telephone Workers CU Looks To Closed Military Base For Branch Expansion

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The $550-million Telephone Workers Credit Union is among those expressing interest in expanding into a closed military base.

The 28,000-member credit union is in the preliminary phase of opening a new location at the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station, a 1,400-acre site that was closed in 1997 as part of the Base Realignment and Closure process. Various U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard units had trained at the station from 1941 until its closure.

Telephone Workers CU President Kenneth Dyer said the main office is now located in downtown Boston and needs to grow-an expensive proposition if it seeks to remain in the city. He noted the new main branch at the air station will be only 15 minutes away using the local metro rail system. "This is an opportunity for us to grow infrastructure at a reasonable cost," Dyer said.

Dyer said Telephone Workers will keep the downtown location, as Boston is presently overserved by banks and underserved by credit unions. Dyer said developer LNR Property Corp. is planning 2.1-million square feet of office and industrial space and 1,400 residential units, which will provide ample opportunities for new members. The 1,400-acre site is, in fact, larger than downtown Boston itself, Dyer said. Redevelopment plans include extensive sports fields that Dyer said will make the old air station a local destination for youth sporting leagues.

Telephone Workers CU's new branch will be three stories tall with 20,000 square feet of office space on each floor. The new branch and a community meeting center will be enclosed in glass and take up 10,000 square feet, with backoffice operations and plenty of room to grow during the next 10 years will occupy the rest, Dyer said. CU members who work downtown or visit three other Telephone Workers branches, can still do their banking as they usually do, he said.

"Membership won't feel the impact," Dyer said. "There's absolutely no loss, it's all additive."

Dyer said the timeline for the move to the South Weymouth base calls for continuing due diligence through February 2006, closing the deal in July, obtaining permits by August, and then moving into a 14-month build cycle for the new branch.

Dyer stated bluntly that any credit union considering building a branch or relocating to an old military base needs to move forward very carefully with special attention to the due-diligence. Nearly 10 years after South Weymouth was chosen for development just after closing in 1997, the air station has seen plans and developers come and go, an enormous amount of government regulation and permitting, and even a large environmental cleanup from a toxic waste dump in the base landfill. It won't be the typical branch opening, Dyer warned.

"You want a developer who's done it before," Dyer said.

Dyer said the LNR Property Corp. has extensive experience in California and that Telephone Workers CU board members have visited LNR projects in San Diego.

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