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Super Walgreens Heading to Cambridge

March 16, 2012

CAMBRIDGE, MA—Make way for a second Super Walgreens in metropolitan Boston, and this time the beneficiaries are denizens of Porter Square. The owner of 1 Porter Square (pictured) has confirmed a lease signing with the pharmacy giant for 21,000 sf that will be spread on both levels of the eclectic 57,000-sf property.
“The lease is now fully executed,” Kambiz Shahbazi, founder of KS Partners, confirms of what he characterizes as “a long-term deal.” CBRE/Grossman Retail Advisors Senior VP Jeremy Grossman brokered the agreement, terms of which were not divulged.

Although the asset saw its share of turmoil in the 2008 downturn, including the closing of a Blockbuster Video and Pizzeria Uno restaurant, the Walgreens commitment is the second piece of good news recently for 1 Porter Sq.’s ownership. KS Partners was able to refinance the building in late 2011 under more favorable terms, a $16 million infusion provided by Cambridge Savings Bank and Marcone Capital.

A retail specialist, Shahbazi says proximity across the street from the Red Line subway at Porter Square always gave him confidence in the building that he acquired for $7.9 million in December 1997. The property was later spun off into a five-unit condominium structure.

Some market observers spoken to say they believe the Walgreens lease represents a shot across the bow for both rival CVS Pharmacy—already in an abutting shopping plaza—and a Shaw’s Supermarket that anchors that retail center. According to one Super Walgreens shopper, the experience is far broader than a prototypical unit. Groceries, extensive cosmetics, and aisles of prepared food such as Sushi are staples at other Super Walgreens, some of which even have their own hair and nail salons.

Beyond expressing confidence that it will help fill other space at the Porter Square property, Shahbazi referred questions regarding the Cambridge operation to the tenant. Efforts to contact Walgreens at its corporate headquarters in Deerfield, IL were not successful by press deadline. The firm’s website counts 164 existing Walgreens in Massachusetts among more than 7,000 units nationally. Walgreens has been slowly infiltrating the Bay State, taking on urban storefronts in Boston where it for many years was non-existent.

Sources say they expect Walgreens will seek to open in Porter Square by year-end 2012 following a major facelift of the footprint. The chain supposedly upped the ante at 1 Porter Sq. after initially planning a more modest unit, which typically are in the 14,000-sf range. The recognition of Porter Square as a strategic location reportedly played into the expansion decision, and observers note 1980s extension of the Red Line subway to Alewife continues to pay dividends for property owners in Porter and Davis Squares.