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CANTON, MA-An 84,000-sf industrial building here is about to get an upgrade to meet demand for flex/R&D product on the Route 128 South corridor. Hall Royce Shawmut Road LLC paid $5.7 million for 95 Shawmut Rd. to Leggat McCall Properties, a Boston-based real estate investor that acquired the asset at the Shawmut Industrial Park in a nine-building portfolio deal completed in May 2005.

Flex space catering to small and mid-sized tenants still bloats the northern tier of suburban Boston, but such product is in scant supply on the South Shore, according to 95 Shawmut Rd. buyer Denison Hall. Not only has the Route 128 South area traditionally been populated by insurance and financial services companies that did not lend themselves to flex/R&D construction, “a lot of inventory has disappeared,” Hall explains, including several buildings demolished to make way for the nearby Westwood Station mixed-use development that will deliver upscale housing, office and retail in a section once filled with commercial tenants.

Hall and partner Adam Berger have acquired about 600,000 sf of flex/R&D space in Greater Boston during the past few years, including their $15.8-million purchase last summer of two buildings in the Interstate 495 South market. Initially reported by GlobeSt.com on July 17, that earlier deal involved 167,000 sf at 157 and 165 Grove St. in Franklin, part of a three-building park developed by the Maggiore Cos. of Woburn.

In the Franklin instance, Maggiore had fit a niche in an area dominated by large industrial and warehouse facilities, and Hall says he believes the opportunity exists to fill a similar gap on the office-centric Route 128 belt that sits closer to Downtown Boston. Maggiore’s construction arm has been retained to convert 95 Shawmut Rd. on behalf of the new owners, who plan to pursue tenants needing between 5,000 and 30,000 sf. “That’s our sweet spot,” says Hall. Broker Steve Clancy of CB Richard Ellis concurs that demand outstrips supply for companies in that range.

Besides a dearth of existing space, the South Shore is attracting a more diverse tenant base that utilizes flex/R&D buildings, relays Clancy, including defense-related operations, technology firms and life sciences companies. “There’s a little trend going on here that kind of snuck up on people,” says the veteran broker. “It has gotten to be a much bigger market.” Clancy credits the presence of such major medical industry players as Covidian, Johnson & Johnson and Smith & Nephew, which he says is encouraging new startups both from within and outside the region.

Clancy reports that he is helping nearly a half-dozen medical-related companies seek space south of Boston, and says he is familiar with at least three more needing between 60,000 sf and 100,000 sf. Some of those prospects might consider 95 Shawmut Rd., says Clancy, who is handling the leasing along with CBRE colleague David Corkery. According to Clancy, 95 Shawmut Rd. is structured such that it can be subdivided into a multi-tenanted complex better than other warehouse buildings that often have a depth of up to 300 feet. The 95 Shawmut Rd. asset is more modest at about 140 feet, he notes, adding the ownership is likely to install windows to improve light and will take additional steps as well to accommodate a user’s need for a mix of office, manufacturing and warehouse requirements.

“We’re excited about the possibilities,” says Clancy. Hall hopes the space will be ready by mid-summer once capital improvements are completed. The building was among the largest acquired at the 24-building Shawmut Industrial Park by Leggat McCall Properties, which paid approximately $30 million for the 470,000-sf portfolio in 2005, including 5, 50, 60, 65, 70, 75, 105 and 110 Shawmut Rd. Efforts to contact LMP officials to discuss the 95 Shawmut Rd. sale were unsuccessful by press deadline. The firm planned to convert some of the space into industrial condos between 3,000 sf and 20,000 sf. It is unclear whether LMP did pursue that strategy, but the firm has sold other buildings in the package outright. Last summer, for example, Paradigm Properties paid $6.7 million for 110 Shawmut Rd.

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