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A Compendium of Property & Capital News
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A Compendium of Property & Capital News

Bulfinch Scores (Another) Life Sciences Deal at 117 Kendrick St. in N2 Corridor

April 02, 2019 — By Joe Clements
117 kendrick Street, Needham MA

NEEDHAM—Cross-border collaboration has brought welcomed life to the N2 Corridor straddling this community and neighboring Newton, and now the commitment of another life sciences firm to 117 Kendrick St. is advancing efforts among municipal planners and local landlords targeting the emerging biotech sector. Candel Therapeutics is leasing 16,000 sf in the building owned by Bulfinch Cos., the mix of lab and office space a seven-year deal Senior VP Michael Wilcox negotiated in-house for the landlord, with Colliers Executive VPs John A. Carroll III and Evan Gallagher advising the tenant.

“We are delighted to welcome Candel as our second life sciences tenant to 117 Kendrick St., and to be able to accommodate lab users at this special asset,” Bulfinch CEO Eric Schlager conveys in a statement provided Real Reporter while Wilcox explains the lease builds upon his firm’s recent renewal of tenant Verastem Inc., a prominent biopharmaceutical company expanding in the 213,000-sf building Bulfinch acquired in 2014 for $52.7 million, that purchase previously unveiled by Real Reporter.

Wilcox insists the leases are no coincidence, with Bulfinch deciding to pursue a restoration campaign at 117 Kendrick St. that could support laboratory functions as part of a broader platform where “Bulfinch remains committed to growing our life sciences portfolio,” one gleaming real-time example the firm’s speculative construction of a 270,000-sf laboratory building at Discovery Park in west Cambridge, a natural given that city’s dominant role as New England’s life sciences epicenter, but Wilcox says Bulfinch’s recent success in Needham demonstrates the formula can travel beyond established urban centers.

“We are dedicated to providing well-located properties and state-of-the-art spaces designed for our tenants to recruit and retain talented employees,” he outlines. In the case of 117 Kendrick St., company officials identified key renovations needed to accomplish their aims involving building systems, common areas and outdoor space, all re-invigorated in the process. Lobbies were transformed from outdated materials to “modern, light-filled and welcoming entrances” aimed at enhancing tenant and visitor experiences upon entering the building.

Amenities include a full-service cafeteria and lounge while the tech set would appreciate a Gold Level Wired Score, that element handy for use of the HqO tenant engagement app used to increase communication and provide a variety of on-site features and perks from local retailers. Those internal improvements are complemented by an updated outdoor courtyard featuring multi-tiered seating options, a fire pit and “thoughtfully placed vegetation.” Says Wilcox: “We think the amenities really set the building apart.”

According to architect Larry Grossman, a senior principal at Stantec, the intention was to extend 117 Kendrick St.’s work environment to include the street and outdoor communal areas. “By creating spaces with warmer finishes and inviting furniture, we are able to promote social interaction and the ability for people to casually meet in small groups,” conveys Grossman.

Candela Therapeutics CEO Dr. Estuardo Aguilar-Cordova voices his approval of the results. “The location and facilities will enable us to foster a productive culture of innovation and community,” he says while adding that “we are excited to help anchor the building of the N2 Corridor biotechnology community.”

Although Bulfinch recently relocated from its longtime Needham home to Boston’s Back Bay, public officials hail the company for its ongoing support of the N2 Corridor partnership, and for investing in its holdings to further attract life sciences and other new-age groups such as technology firms. “Mike Wilcox and Bulfinch have been critical factors in the success of the Newton-Needham corridor,” says Needham’s Economic Development Director Devra Bailin, relaying that “their planning and development expertise along with their investment in the N2 district has really helped transform the area.”

Wilcox, who holds a masters degree in city planning from the University of Rhode Island, credits the two communities for working together to define the district and embracing the life sciences trend, with Needham incorporating laboratory as an allowed use in its zoning helping eliminate any concerns users might have on receiving approvals. A shuttle to the MBTA Green Line at Newton Highlands helps in that cause, he says, because many such firms need public transportation, and he reports the district’s position along Route 128 and the inner suburbs is encouraging laboratory tenants throughout the suburbs to consider 117 Kendrick St., and not just sticker-shocked Cambridge companies seeking rent relief. One prospect eyeing the building hails from the South Shore, for example.

A former 1950’s-era warehouse previously occupied by Polaroid Corp.,117 Kendrick St. was converted to first-class office space in the late 1990s, and the 28,000 sf currently available in the building is being marketed to mainstream office users on top of life sciences tenants. Should Bulfinch reel in one of the biotech or pharmaceutical companies who have 117 Kendrick St. on their radar screen, the high ceilings to 17 feet and roof access for equipment combine to make the structure able to support the physical needs of life sciences companies and the location appears favorable as well, especially for firm’s whose executives reside in such leafy suburbs as the host communities plus nearby Wayland, Wellesley and Weston.

“We are encouraged by the number of (life sciences) users taking a look” at 117 Kendrick St., says Wilcox. The traffic “is a good sign we have built an environment that can meet their needs (physically) and that we also have the amenities people are calling for today.” Candela, which is relocating from Newton’s Auburndale district, has apparently concluded such is the case, and Wilcox says the agreement should offer further evidence of the project’s viability. “It is great news,” he says of the company inking the lease, financial details of which were not provided. Wilcox says the pact reflects a measure of expansion for the company, although it is unclear just how large Candela’s footprint might be at the current headquarters.

John A. Carroll Evan Gallagher Michael Wilcox Eric Schlager