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CAMBRIDGE, MA-Equity One Inc. entered into a definitive agreement to purchase six grocery-anchored, retail properties in the Boston metropolitan area from Charlesbank, LLC. The North Miami Beach, FL-based company, which until now has focused on community and neighborhood shopping centers in the south, paid $120 million for the 390,979-sf portfolio. The deal is expected to close on or before Sept. 30.

Charlesbank was prepared to take $80 million for the properties a few years ago but, in a move that proved to be prescient for the firm, it pulled out of that deal at the last minute, says James Koury, a senior vice president at Spaulding & Slye Colliers who specializes in retail properties. He tells GlobeSt.com that it is over the past few years that the value of supermarket-anchored centers have gone up.

“The valuation of these centers is peaking now,” he notes. “They will probably come down to historic norms soon.” Koury points out that these types of properties are considered core assets and tend to hold their value better than other types of properties; but he adds that the Charlesbank portfolio was bought at the height of the market and while there is some possibility to add value to the centers, it isn’t much.

Howard Sipzner, executive vice president and CFO of Equity One, tells GlobeSt.com his firm believes that a number of the properties–some of which include additional out parcels–have some opportunities for development and expansion. He points out that Equity has been looking to get into the Boston area for a while. “We’ve been growing nicely in the southern states but it wasn’t enough,” he says. “We needed to find new markets.”

Sipzner notes that the properties, which are located in Cambridge, Medford, Quincy, Swampscott, West Roxbury and Plymouth, are all nearly fully leased up. They are anchored by supermarket chains, including five Shaw’s Supermarkets–recently acquired by Albertson’s–and one Whole Foods. The West Roxbury center also includes 13,213 sf of local tenants.

“Our entry into the Boston market advances our goal of penetrating the best urban markets on the East Coast through the acquisition of properties or portfolios of properties anchored by leading supermarkets or other necessity oriented retailers,” says Chaim Katzman, chairman and CEO of Equity One, adding that it offers “meaningful geographic diversification” to the portfolio. “The Boston market has high barriers to entry, dominant supermarket chains and extremely compelling demographics.”

Koury points out that retail properties are now at the height of the market. “If an owner was thinking about selling, the time is now,” he says, noting that as interest rates rise, cap rates will go up also, making this the high point for pricing.

This could be good news for Sipzner who says that this acquisition will be used by Equity as a platform from which to grow in the area. “This [purchase] is a starting point.”

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