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BURLINGTON, MA-At 4 Van de Graaf Dr., what’s inside really does count, as evidenced via a spirited pursuit for the distinctive 100,000-sf office building. Sources claim Normandy Real Estate Partners has secured the six-year-old asset, agreeing to pay more than $30 million and perhaps upwards of $320 per sf.

“Normandy has it,” insists one source. “Yes they are” the winning bidder, another source seconds. Calls to both Normandy at their New Jersey headquarters and 4 Van de Graaf Dr.’s brokers at Jones Lang LaSalle’s Capital Markets Group in Boston were not returned by deadline.

Easily eclipsing normal levels for trades on the northern tier of Route 128, the ardor is not simply a reflection of the manic capital market. According to those familiar with the building’s financials, the prize lies in a long-term commitment from BAE Systems, a technology firm that leased 4 Van de Graaf Dr. in 2001 just as the then-speculative project was coming online. The cost of bringing the work force together from nearby Maynard and Cambridge was a deal that has reportedly escalated to $48 per sf.

Having signed their pact at the market apex, BAE Systems subsequently subleased much of the property at a deep discount, but remains responsible for a term estimated at four to five years. Current market rents in Burlington run in the $20-per-sf range after a difficult reaction to the technology downturn, and brokers say even the recovering economy is unlikely to be so resurgent as to reach the rates already achieved at 4 Van de Graaf Dr.

“It’s a very solid play,” says one of the sources familiar with the building. Another lauded the access and quality of the four-story, brick-glass structure, which is owned by Van de Graaf Partners LLC, an entity controlled by several veteran Massachusetts real estate investors.

Construction of 4 Van de Graaf Dr. was spearheaded in the late 1990s by developer James Freeman, who successfully replaced a smaller, older property there with the gleaming building, surviving a lengthy permitting process. At the time of construction, quality materials were the mindset of tenants, and most observers list 4 Van de Graaf Dr. among the best suburban addresses available.

“It would be hard to replace that building today for less than $245 per sf,” opines one industry observer, while a suburban broker active in the area says the new ownership should benefit from the rebound, especially as the so-called “flight-to-quality” trend remains a mainstay of the leasing mindset.

Founded in 2002 and fueled by a fund sporting purchasing power of $1.8 billion, Normandy Real Estate Partners has become a leading buyer of suburban Boston real estate in the past two years, with earlier conquests on Route 128 including assets on Wells Avenue in Newton, the Stony Brook Office Park in Waltham and the Lexington Corporate Center, about five miles south of 4 Van de Graaf Dr. Based in Morristown, NJ, Normandy has indicated plans to continue its buying spree in the northeast.

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