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[IMGCAP(1)]CAMBRIDGE, MA-One of the region’s most protracted development initiatives is receiving a financial boost from Allstate Real Estate Investment Group, which is providing a $52 million leasehold mortgage loan for a portion of University Park at MIT. The 10-year loan was issued via Allstate’s Commercial Mortgage division to the 27-acre park’s co-owners, a partnership of Forest City Enterprises and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

[IMGCAP(2)]“Over the past 20 years, University Park has been transformed from blighted industrial buildings into a dynamic neighborhood centered around state-of-the-art research facilities,” notes Dave Henderson, senior portfolio manager for Allstate Real Estate. “We are pleased to be able to offer the customized financing needed to continue the growth and strengthen its reputation as a center for biotech and healthcare innovation.”

Allstate’s loan covers three assets in the complex, including a 101,000-sf office building, 68,000 sf of retail space and a 950-vehicle garage. University Park encompasses more than 2.3 million sf of office and research space, as well as a hotel, residential development and supermarket. It has emerged as the gateway to Cambridge’s Central Square.

The loan signifies confidence in the asset itself, says Henderson, as well as the surrounding area. “Right now, Boston and Cambridge are very strong,” he says, while Allstate has a long relationship with Forest City that further supported the lender’s interest in the project. The loan for a portion of the complex reflects a number of ownership entities created during University Park’s construction, explains Henderson. The piece backed by Allstate’s loan includes a five-story office building at 350 Massachusetts Ave.; the seven-story parking garage at 55 Franklin St.; and two lower levels of 20 Sidney St., a combination of retail and hotel that was split into a condominium by the ownership, with the hotel previously sold to another entity.

Familiarity with all four “food groups” in the commercial real estate chain enabled Allstate to handle the University Park loan, which was brought to the firm by Chris Blechschmidt of Capmark Finance. Allstate has emerged as a significant player in the Massachusetts lending community since launching its regional office in 2006, and Henderson says he is encouraged by the current activity despite a slowdown in acquisitions and development. “The deal flow has been steady,” he tells GlobeSt.com, fueled partly by limited sales transactions and refinancing opportunities. The commercial mortgage team is also increasingly relied on by borrowers due to the upheaval in the conduit arena, Henderson concurs, as both banks and insurers have bolstered their position since the debt market woes began in mid-summer 2007.

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