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WESTFORD, MA-Reversing course in the face of a deteriorating investment climate for commercial real estate, the Gutierrez Cos. is pulling one of the largest New England properties available to investors off the market. The owner of the 100-acre Westford Technology Park East is shelving the sales initiative for the time being, acknowledges Michael Smith of Jones Lang LaSalle, whose firm was retained to peddle the one-million-sf nine-building property.

“We just didn’t hit the target,” Smith tells GlobeSt.com in explaining the action. Although it was put on the block this autumn without an asking price, and Gutierrez was said to be intent on retaining a level of ownership, the asset could have traded fully in the $200-million range, according to initial estimates.

A JLL managing director, Smith says there was interest in the property from a number of prospects, but the uncertainty gripping buyers kept the bidding from reaching the necessary levels. The park’s strong position in the Interstate 495 office market did not lend itself to a discounted sale, says Smith, who predicts a more stable environment will return by the second quarter of 2008.

After a hyperactive first half, 2007 investment sales activity halted dramatically during the third quarter and was nearing gridlock just as Westford Technology Park was being groomed for bidders. The decision to play through was based on the commonly held belief that the institutional investors who would most likely pursue the opportunity are not those impacted by the burgeoning debt crisis.

But, while Smith insists such capital remains unfettered, a pattern of retrading deals has seemingly disrupted the mindset of investors enough that they no longer feel comfortable about how to price risk, and ultimately, with the property itself. Accustomed to having their way, sellers are unwilling to adjust their expectations substantially, leading to the current standoff.

Gutierrez officials did not respond to inquiries regarding the decision, but one broker familiar with the property concurs that the owner will fare better by holding off until 2008. “It will always do well,” the source says of Westford Technology Park, which Gutierrez completed in 2001. Occupancy at the property generally runs close to 100%, says the broker, and despite the investment sales turmoil, leasing activity in suburban Boston has remained strong for most of 2007. “We just need the market to calm down a bit,” says Smith, who adds that he anticipates the capital sources will return once the playing field is better defined.

In the meantime, JLL’s investment sales team is wrapping up a few remaining deals as year-end approaches. Despite the recent slowdown, the firm is expected to have one of its best campaigns ever, having negotiated several high-profile sales in Massachusetts, including the $66.5-million sale of the Burlington Woods Office Park and the 800,000-sf Sun Microsystems campus in Burlington that fetched $212 million in mid-summer, just before the market cratered.

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