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Adding fuel to an ongoing border war between Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the Grossman Cos. is offering 120,000 sf of office space that officials hope will attract companies from the Ocean State’s business base. The project is a joint venture of SeP Associates, a partnership that includes the Grossman Cos.

“We feel that a lot of the interest is going to come from Rhode Island tenants,” says Grossman broker Aiden Murray, whose firm plans to convert a defunct Seekonk mall into a state-of-the-art office development. “There’s absolutely no space there, especially large contiguous blocks, so I think they will have to consider us as an option.”

If Grossman is successful, it would be a measure of revenge for Massachusetts, which has seen Rhode Island economic officials aggressively lobby Massachusetts firms in recent years. Besides luring Fidelity Investments with a sizeable tax break to a site in Smithfield, the state even recently established a Web site known as mass-exodus.com that touts the benefits of doing business across the border.

Murray says he believes the Seekonk property would serve well as an office building, especially because a fiber-optic backbone runs alongside the parcel. Featuring 18-foot ceilings and a flexible layout, the single-story building could function as a data center or perhaps as back-office space for the medical or insurance industries. Per sf rents are projected in the low teens.

Just minutes from downtown Providence, the site would also be a likely candidate to draw from the Rhode Island labor pool, says Murray. With such well-known Rhode Island schools as Brown University, Johnson & Wales and Roger Williams nearby, high-tech and professional companies would have an educated labor force to tap into, says Murray.

“We’re hoping that employers will see that as well,” he says. “There are lots of college students looking for good jobs every year.” He estimates the labor pool in the area to be over 500,000 people.

Grossman will manage construction on behalf of SeP, which purchased the property in May for $1.24 million. The firm recently secured the United States Postal Service to the parcel, with the USPS planning a stand-alone post office slated to open next February. That building will be just under 10,000 sf.

If there are no takers for office space, Murray says SeP might consider revamping the property as retail. While that also could be a successful outcome, Murray predicts that the company will ultimately land one or several office tenants for the project, which is being called Towne Centre.

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