Accommodating the sellers, Linear/Principal has agreed to delayclosing on the assets until early 2009, prompting the two sides tostrike a master-lease arrangement until the deal is consummated."We effectively have full control of the properties," explainsLinear President William Beckeman, whose $300-million fund isfocused on convenience-oriented retail throughout New England. Thelatest purchases brings the number of assets acquired since thefund was launched in 2003 to 48, an assemblage valued at $220million.

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Besides a free-standing Walgreens, the Stoughton plaza houses a2,200-sf Eastern Bank branch, plus a Hertz Car Rental, pizza shopand Starbucks. Linear/Principal will pay $9.1 million for thatcenter, which Linear partner Aubrey Cannuscio terms "a prototypicalLinear Retail" investment. "The property offers a strong pharmacyanchor at a key intersection and some additional shop space that,together, offer bullet-proof cash flow and long-term upside," hesays.

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The fund is paying $3.25 million for 870 Providence Highway,which is located at the junction of Enterprise Dr., the primeentrance to Gateway Center, a 650,000-sf entertainment/retailcomplex that broke ground this spring. Cannuscio calls the latterasset a "strategic buy" for other reasons, including his firm'sprevious purchase of an abutting complex, leased to a bridal shop,guitar store and Mattress Giant branch. "Together, these propertiesoffer operational efficiencies as well as long-term redevelopmentpotential on a very prominent retail center," he says.

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Unmotivated sellers and the lingering credit crunch have made itchallenging to find opportunities this year versus last, saysBeckeman. But while terming the first quarter as "dead," he notesthat Linear/Principal has five buildings under contract to date in2008, the same number secured at this time in 2007. As the mid-yearpoint approaches, Beckeman says more properties are finally makingtheir way to market. "It seems to be freeing up a little bit," hereports.

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In the meantime, the fund's managers have proactively pursuedproperties such as the Dedham and Stoughton centers. Seller JohnDeMatteo says the owners "were not eager" to harvest their assets,but says "Linear Retail countered our reluctance by offering a goodprice and a deferred closing that allowed the timing of atransaction to work for us." The deal was brokered by KevinShaughnessy of Collaborative Retail Strategies of Charlestown.Linear also says KeyPoint Partners of Burlington will provideproperty management services for both assets.

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