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WATERTOWN, MA-The renovated Arsenal site here was supposed to be a more affordable answer for high-tech companies seeking space in the area but unable to manage the once-high rents in nearby Cambridge. And for a while it was, as tech firms leased nearly all the space in the main building of the former government munitions factory.

But the 370,000-sf building, which Arthur D. Little Inc. leased and then sub-leased to several tenants, is now nearly half empty, as many of the technology-related tenants fall victim to the economic downturn. “We successfully subleased that space,” Steven Purpura, a partner with Richards Barry Joyce & Partners LLC, which is leasing the site for Arthur D. Little, tells GlobeSt.com. “Now ADL has to re-lease space there.”

According to Purpura, there is currently 150,000 sf of space available in the building. While Purpura declined to identify the tenants that have given back space, Event Zero Inc., an e-business consultant, reportedly backed out of its lease. Another company, Lavastorm Inc., was planning to lease nearly 80,000 sf but never moved in. A consulting firm, ontheFrontier has reportedly sub-subleased less than a quarter of that space. Another company, Primix Solutions Inc., an Internet services firm, was ready to lease nearly 73,000 sf but has since renegotiated for about half of that.

Harvard University purchased the Arsenal from O’Neill Properties last year, a move that was opposed by town officials here because the university’s non-profit status could deprive the town of the 30-acre site’s potential property-tax revenue. Over $100 million in state and federal money was poured into redeveloping the Arsenal. The two sides have been trying to work out a deal.

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