WALTHAM, MA-Between vehicles hurtling along Route 128 to one side and a building retrofit under way on the other, speakers needed to up the octaves Tuesday at 21 Hickory Dr. while celebrating the start of Overlook Center, a 105,000-sf class A structure that will soon tower over America’s Technology Highway. In many ways, the din–which included a backhoe tearing up one corner of the development parcel–sent the message loud and clear that suburban Boston’s core office market is operating at a fever pitch as the mid-year approaches.

“We really like the timing for when this is going to be delivered,” says Neelon Properties principal Christopher Neelon, whose family owned firm anticipates the six-story building will open next fall on a site it has controlled for a half-century. Having weathered another Massachusetts meltdown earlier this decade that put even Waltham in dire straits, Neelon and co-developer Normandy Real Estate Partners were spurred to move forward by the city’s impressive rebound that has rents above $40 per sf and a slate of competitors looming on the horizon. In acknowledging the brisk activity surrounding Tuesday’s groundbreaking of the $38-million building, Normandy principal Raymond Trevisan tells GlobeSt.com that the undertaking makes sense despite the lack of a signed tenant or any immediate prospects.

“You hate to be the last one out of the ground,” he says, and competitors such as Boston Properties, Davis Marcus Partners and Hobbs Brook Management are already forging ahead or about to begin new office construction. By one estimate, more than three million sf of new office space is in the pipeline for the central Route 128 belt anchored by Waltham. Others are racing to secure existing product with an eye towards quick redevelopment, as in the case of the building being overhauled next door to the Overlook Center groundbreaking. A large banner advertising available space draped one side of that property, the Bear Hill Business Center.

Alternatives aside, attendees at the Overlook Center fete predict good times ahead for the project, including Jones Lang LaSalle broker Alex Dauria, who is orchestrating the leasing program. “This is going to add to the new landscape of Waltham,” says Dauria, praising architects Perkins+Will for a sleek design that incorporates glass curtain wall and an illuminated mast that will be seen north and south along Route 128.

“The visibility is fantastic,” concurs Neelon, with the view afforded by a topography looming over the roadway. As a result, tenants can benefit from signage if willing to make the lease commitment needed for anchor status. The prominence of 21 Hickory Dr. certainly did not escape Normandy when Neelon opted to seek out a partner. “This is a very high-profile location, and it made a lot of sense to go after it,” says Trevisan, citing Normandy principal Justin Krebs for recognizing that potential.

Befitting an asset worthy of a corporate headquarters, Overlook Center will have a range of aesthetic and functional features, including a two-story lobby, full-service cafeteria, fitness center and a four-level garage that will offer a parking allowance of nearly four vehicles per 1,000 sf leased. “As the demand for a limited pool of highly skilled labor increases, progressive employers will focus on the quality, accessibility and amenities of their office space for retaining the cutting edge intellectual capital that drives this economy,” Krebs says in explaining the attention on quality construction.

Trevisan indicated Overlook Center will seek rents above $40 per sf compared to a rate in the high $20′s to mid-$30′s for a property Normandy owns across Route 128 from Overlook Center, that being 400 Fifth Ave. New Jersey-based Normandy has made a major push into Massachusetts during the past 18 months, buying a variety of office product in Waltham in a gambit that outpaced the recovery. Eyebrows were raised when Normandy secured the Stony Brook Office Park and 400 Fifth Ave., but the firm’s investments now appear justified given Waltham’s escalating rents. “Sometimes, you can get a better sense coming from the outside,” Trevisan says of Normandy’s insight about the regional rebound. The company now owns 32 assets in Massachusetts totaling 3.7 million sf, including Boston’s 99 Summer St.

Tuesday’s groundbreaking included a brief speech from Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy, who along with Christopher Neelon reminisced about the early days of Route 128 when locals were not sure what to make of the roadway’s construction. Both recalled being on the very site pondering that future. Besides a desire “to be here for another 50 years,” Neelon says the family wanted to ensure the project would enhance the community, a goal he says was shared by Normandy. “To me, the building fits the site perfectly,” says Neelon, who represents the third generation of his family to run the company.

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