As if they did not already have enough to deal with, Boston Properties is at it again. The real estate investment trust is about to unveil a major office project for Waltham, with industry sources reporting that the firm is planning a 375,000-sf building at the site of a former oil tank farm. Chestnut Hill-based W/S Development is also said to be a partner in the deal.

“It’s a terrific location for a first-class office building,” says a broker familiar with the property on Jones Road. The source, who requested anonymity, also maintains that the development will be well received by companies scrambling to find adequate quarters. “The marketplace needs the space,” says the source. “In all areas, we are badly undersupplied.”

Nowhere is that more true than in Waltham, considered the most desirable office destination in the suburbs. With a 4.7% vacancy rate, according to Meredith & Grew, the 20-million-sf Route 128/Mass Pike submarket has barely 900,000 sf available, and virtually nothing contiguous over 50,000 sf. After beginning the year with rental rates in the mid-$30 per sf range, Waltham is now commanding rents above $50 per sf.

Even with such a hefty chunk of space, the Jones Road developers should attract attention, according to Scott R. Hughes, a veteran broker familiar with the Waltham area. “There are a lot of people with very large requirements” in the market, he says, adding that the Jones Road parcel has the visibility and access to make it a sought-after destination. “It’s a good location,” says Hughes. “I think they will do well with it.”

Neither Boston Properties nor W/S Development officials returned phone calls by press deadline, but sources insist that the project is moving ahead, with a formal announcement anticipated as early as next week. The team would like to begin construction in early 2001, says the source, adding that Trammell Crow has been retained as exclusive leasing agent. Trammell Crow officials referred questions to Boston Properties.

Flush with cash since going public three years ago, Boston Properties has wasted little time putting that capital in play. It is one of the few REITs to focus on development, with current projects including a 36-story, 865,000-sf office tower in Downtown Boston. The firm is also about to begin work on a 340,000-sf office development in Weston at a property it acquired earlier this year for $17 million. Located at the junction of Route 128 and Route 20, that project is a short distance from the Jones Road parcel.

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