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READING, MA-A multi-tenanted shopping plaza fronting busy Route 28 has been purchased by Linear Retail Properties. The 20,000-sf asset at 345 Main St. and a separate center acquired in Warwick, RI, brings to 46 the number of New England retail assets Linear has secured for a $300-million investment fund backed by Principal Financial Group.

Linear hopes to deploy $80 million in 2008, according to principal Aubrey Cannuscio. Despite the credit crunch that has slowed property sales dramatically in the region, $16 million has been spent year-to-date, including $3.9 million for the Reading property and $1.6 million for 1138 Post Rd. in Warwick. Negotiations are underway on another two deals, Cannuscio confirms while declining to identify those properties.

The fund gives Burlington-based Linear the ability to make far larger purchases than the latest two. There are several substantial assets already in the $225 million spent since the campaign began five years ago, but Cannuscio says the latest buys are strategically important for the fund, calling them “straight-forward investments” that allow a cash flow and potential upside via a planned retrofit of 345 Main St. The off-market deal was brokered by Frank Normandin of Summit Realty Partners, who correctly sensed the center would be attractive to Linear, says Cannuscio.

A vacant space fronting Route 28 has recently been leased by a successful natural foods store, bringing 345 Main St. to full occupancy. Other tenants include a Sherwin-Williams outlet, another recent arrival. There is also a liquor store whose owners, Busa Liquors, sold 345 Main St. to Linear. The most lasting denizen of the plaza is Café Capri, a popular local pizza shop and restaurant situated at the rear of the property.

“It’s tired today, but I think it’s going to look like a new property in six months,” says Cannuscio. Modern signage, façade improvements and enhanced landscaping will be part of the restoration, relays Cannuscio, whose firm recently completed a similar overhaul at the Burlington Marketplace on Mall Road in nearby Burlington. Strong visibility along the four-lane Route 28 and a local connection aided by Café Capri are among the positives of 345 Main St., reports Cannuscio, who also notes the property’s accessibility to nearby Walkers Brook Drive. That roadway has seen an explosion of retail development in the past two years with more on the way. “We like what’s going on there,” Cannuscio says.

Linear is also enthused about the Rhode Island property, a two-tenant complex located on Route One less than two miles north of T.F. Green Airport. Harold Lavine of Bessette Realty in Lincoln, RI, was the sole broker in that sale. An Aaron’s Furniture Store shares the 10,000-sf plaza with Asian restaurant Lemongrass, similar to Café Capri by being a well-known local eatery. In unveiling the latest purchases, Linear named Colliers Meredith & Grew as property manager for 345 Main St. and Keypoint Partners to manage 1138 Post Rd.

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