purchase

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The structure "will provide our investors with a solid returnfrom day one," NBF chief investment officer Jim Kelleher says. Thesale-leaseback "is a perfect fit" for NBF's diversified strategy inthat it offers near-term stability, Kelleher says.

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Abt Associates CFO David Loeser also praises the arrangement."This transaction was favorable for us from a financial point ofview and allows us to focus our resources on growing our corebusiness of research, consulting and technical assistance," hesays. Abt has been at the property since 1965 after founder ClarkAbt designed the complex in what is now known as the Alewifedistrict.

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The Boston office of Grubb & Ellis marketed 55 Wheeler St.for Abt Associates and also procured the buyer. G&E hasorchestrated other sale-leaseback deals locally, including a $116million pact last year involving two Boston office/researchbuildings and Tufts Medical Center. Broker Phil Giunta, whospearheaded that and the Abt deals, tells GlobeSt.com that theconcept is a good solution for firms seeking to use the equity intheir real estate while retaining occupancy.

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Having launched the 55 Wheeler St. marketing effort last spring,G&E had to guide the offering through a volatile debt crisisthat doomed dozens of transactions in the region. The difficultenvironment did delay the sale, says Giunta, who credits itssurvival to a cooperative attitude by Abt, NBF and the G&Esales team, which includes George Nugent, Jennifer Nicholson andAnn Newman.

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"Today, the name of the game is stick-to-itness," Giunta says."You have to stay very focused and I'm really proud of the wayeveryone worked together to get this done." Giunta praises NBF forsticking to its terms even as conditions worsened and Abt forpatience through the process. "It made a lot of sense for bothsides," he says of the final agreement.

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Expanded several times, 55 Wheeler St. now has more than 125,000sf of space assembled around a courtyard setting. Located within ahalf-mile of the Alewife Red Line subway that connects to DowntownBoston, 55 Wheeler St. abuts another NBF asset, 70 Fawcett St. Thatasset combined with 55 Wheeler St. gives the firm an assemblage of10 acres in one of the region's most promising commercialdistricts. While not offering specifics, NBF does cite thedevelopment potential of the combined parcels, and Giunta says thatelement was an advantage that other suitors could not match. "Thereis a clear density benefit," he says.

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