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CAMBRIDGE, MA-Switching its ownership focus from a fringe office district in Boston to this city’s western flank, the Archon Group LP has purchased two buildings and a land parcel from J.P. Morgan Investment Management Co. Supported by a $106-million loan from Barclays Capital Real Estate, Archon paid $129 million for the package on CambridgePark Drive.

“There’s no denying it now,” says one source, even though Archon officials and Jones Lang LaSalle brokers handling the deal did not respond to inquiries by press deadline. Both sides have remained silent since GlobeSt.com first reported a month ago that Dallas-based Archon had beat out stiff competition to secure the assets, which total 436,000 sf in 125 CambridgePark and 150 CambridgePark Dr. J.P. Morgan acquired the buildings in 2001 for $97 million.

All but 9% of the 184,000-sf in 125 CambridgePark Dr. is leased, whereas occupancy is just 59.9% at 150 CambridgePark Dr., a 252,000-sf building that opened in 1986. The smaller property, constructed in 1984 as one of the Alewife District’s first office buildings, traded for $53.9 million, compared to $74 million paid for 150 CambridgePark Dr. In both instances, that equates to about $293 per sf, well above normal rates paid for office buildings outside of the core East Cambridge market. The land parcel was priced at $1.1 million, but there was no indication how much space can be generated on that site.

The purchase by Archon was framed by a solid second quarter for Alewife, which outpaced both the Harvard Square/Massachusetts Avenue and East Cambridge office districts on net absorption, according to mid-year results provided by JLL. The other two submarkets actually posted negative absorption in the second quarter, with minus-30,000 sf in the 12.3-million-sf East Cambridge market. Alewife enjoyed 32,000 sf of net absorption in the quarter, putting the mid-year total at plus-47,000 sf. The activity has pushed Alewife’s vacancy rate down to single digits for the first time since the regional office sector crashed in 2003, registering a 9.8% mark in the latest JLL report. As a result, the asking rates have also pushed up sharply, from $27.42 per sf to end the first quarter to $32.69 per sf at mid-year.

JLL’s investment team for the Cambridge portfolio included Cappy Daume, Michael Smith, Scott Jamieson, Gail McDonough and Brandon Dickason. The properties are among several prime assets traded by the group in the first half of 2007, including the $67-million sale of the Burlington Woods Office Park and a $212-million deal just completed for the Sun Microsystems campus in Burlington. Archon to date this year has been on a selling spree in Massachusetts, harvesting four buildings in Boston’s Seaport District after several years of ownership.

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