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SOMERVILLE, MA—Bolstering efforts to become a player in Greater Boston’s commercial real estate industry, Somerville is positioning itself as a more responsive, lower-cost alternative to the abutting Cambridge and nearby Downtown Boston markets.

“The city of Somerville is setting records for fast development timelines,” according to Chamber of Commerce president Stephen Mackey, who notes that the planning board approved a pair of 195,000-sf telecommunications centers within five months and has now given the go-ahead for two high-capacity, business-to-business fiber-optic backbones in two areas of the city.

Cathartes Investments of Boston is developing the telecommunications centers at 150 and 200 Inner Belt Rd., with company officials citing an existing fiber-optic line that feeds directly into Cambridge and Downtown Boston as a key component for the 390,000-sf undertaking. Cathartes, which broke ground last week on the first of the two new buildings, has leased all of 70 Innerbelt Rd., a 287,000-sf facility occupied almost entirely by telecom users.

Somerville is also encouraging office and retail developers to look at the mostly residential community, Mackey says. In addition to a business-friendly approach by city officials, he estimates that land costs in Somerville are a third of those in Cambridge.

“Businesses are choking on the lack of space, and developers are choking on the delays,” Mackey says. “It is time investors loosen the noose.”

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