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FREETOWN, MA-This southeastern Massachusetts city was hoping to toast the arrival of a new brewery, but a large land purchase by Boston Beer Co. could mean nothing if an alternative in Allentown, PA comes to fruition. The maker of Samuel Adams spirits has paid $5.9 million to the Campanelli Cos., owners of the Campanelli Business Park where the 52-acre swath is located.

“There is a bunch of moving pieces to the equation,” says Mark Stevens, principal of the Stevens Group who assisted Boston Beer Co. in a two-year space quest that extended into New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Stevens and Catherine Thompson of GVA Williams orchestrated the search.

When Freetown was identified, state incentives and local support aided Boston Beer’s bid to develop upwards of 300,000 sf on the site, Stevens says. The footprint is slated to include a section for facility tours.

Just as the process was nearing conclusion, however, the chance to overhaul an existing facility in Allentown caught Boston Beer’s ear–and its executives agreed to pursue the location. With eight months of due diligence remaining on the Pennsylvania location, Boston Beer has opted to secure the Freetown property as an expensive safety valve. “It’s a wise approach,” Stevens says. “If nothing else, they have a great site that is only going to increase in value.”

Campanelli principal Jeff DeMarco concurs that it made rational business sense on both sides to complete the deal, with the parcel trading for $115,000 per acre. But, he expressed disappointment that Boston Beer has tabled its local plans. “We’d much prefer to see something get built there,” DeMarco tells GlobeSt.com.

Stevens says he believes people in the South Coast region have not abandoned hope that Freetown will persevere. The same is true for DeMarco. “I wouldn’t say I’m optimistic, but we haven’t ruled it out,” he says.

Stevens says a spike in construction materials, especially for the stainless steel required for a brewery, made the retrofit strategy more viable. “It’s a substantial difference [price wise] between the two, and as a public company, they need to make the right financial decision,” he says.

Should the tide turn, though, Stevens says Boston Beer would be able to react quickly at Freetown because the site is already permitted. Save for the Pennsylvania opportunity, Freetown would have been the clear choice for the facility, he adds.

“Freetown was able to deliver on everything Boston Beer needed,” Stevens says, including excess power and water capacity, plus on-site rail access to deliver massive amounts of the required grains. The property is located at exit 9 of Route 24.

“It’s perfect,” says Stevens, praising Campanelli for recognizing the park’s potential when buying it in 1998. The location was further validated when Stop & Shop built a regional distribution center nearby.

Stevens says the “pro-business” attitude of locals, coupled with a plentiful labor force, will make the parcel marketable regardless of Boston Beer’s final site choice.

Boston Beer Co. has been centered in Boston, operating its main brewery in the city’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood and last year relocating its headquarters to the Seaport District. That deal also was negotiated by Thompson. Stevens says the existing plants will remain in operation.

Despite the uncertain future, Campanelli certainly seemed appeased by the outcome. “It was a pleasure working with the Boston Beer Co.,” says DeMarco, who describes the buyer as being honest when the Pennsylvania idea arose. The Freetown deal completes phase one of the Campanelli Business Park. DeMarco says his company is now entertaining prospects for a larger second phase involving another 80 acres of land that can accommodate about 300,000 sf of build out.

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