In the News > Special Permit Approved for 270,000 SF Office Building in Burlington

Special Permit Approved for 270,000 SF Office Building in Burlington

6/19/2014

Nordblom is planning to develop a six-story office building in Northwest Park, adding to the recent growth spurt on its nearly 300-acre Burlington campus.

The Planning Board recently approved the estimated $75.6 million project, opening the way for Burlington-based Nordblom to construct the 270,000-square-foot building in the Network Drive section of the business park off the Middlesex Turnpike. The plan also calls for below-ground parking and an adjacent parking deck.

Todd Fremont-Smith, the firm’s senior vice president and director of mixed-use projects, said Nordblom plans to begin construction as soon as it has gained leasing commitments for at least 50 percent of the space, which could happen as early as this fall.

“The Network Drive campus is nearly 100 percent leased, so we are almost out of space,” Fremont-Smith said. “Therefore, we are getting ourselves in position to build more space.”

Fremont-Smith said the situation at Northwest Park reflects the growing demand for office space on Route 128 and Burlington in particular.

“We are seeing quite a few tenants in the market for 80,000 to 90,000 square feet. . . . As these larger tenants sign leases, very quickly they gobble up whatever vacant space there is,” he said.

In 2007, Nordblom acquired the 147-acre Network Drive campus from Sun Microsystems for $212 million. Today, the space is leased to a variety of high-tech firms.

“It’s a college campus type of office park where everything is interconnected through a large winter garden, so it’s reminiscent of the West Coast,” Fremont-Smith said.

Northwest Park also includes the original 138-acre southern section owned by Nordblom. The firm is revitalizing that area through a mixed-use development called 3rd Ave Burlington that will include a Wegmans supermarket, high-end restaurants, stores, and eventually housing.

Plans for the new building at 25 Network Drive come on the heels of Nordblom’s $25.8 million purchase with J.P. Morgan in December of the former Palomar Medical Technologies headquarters on Network Drive. Nordblom officials said the purchase enabled the firm to fully integrate the building with the rest of the campus.

Fremont-Smith said that Burlington’s growing number of amenities — including the new restaurants in Northwest Park and other locations — is making the town increasingly attractive to office tenants.

“It seems like Burlington is in an upward spiral and everything keeps getting better and better,” he said. “We are really starting to hear from office tenants who want to be in Burlington and want to be near 3rd Ave.”

Nordblom says the 3rd Ave development is intended to make the area of the park that includes Third Avenue and surrounding streets into an urban boulevard, with an array of restaurants and retail businesses that would attract employees of the park’s many high-tech firms.

Bob Hogan, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said he welcomes the activity that Nordblom is bringing, particularly with the 3rd Ave development.

“It certainly gives us options for more restaurants and more entertainment and more shopping, and there will be more places for people to live,” he said. “It’s becoming more of a community down there, where people come to work and live. There’s enough to do to keep them in that area.”

Hogan said the additional office building is also a plus, provided there is sufficient demand for the space. “As long as the market sustains it, then it’s a good continuation of the overall project.”

The 3rd Ave development has been proceeding at a brisk pace, with one notable setback: In April, a fire of undetermined origin destroyed a building on Second Avenue that was being renovated to house a King’s bowling alley and restaurant.

“It was a disappointment, but we just picked up the pieces,” said Fremont-Smith. “We knocked the building down and it is our plan to rebuild what was there.”

Meanwhile, the new Wegmans, which will anchor the 3rd Ave development, is targeted to open its doors in mid-October. The 140,000-square-foot supermarket will include a 299-seat cafe.

The Bancroft, a high-end steakhouse, recently opened in part of a newly constructed 35,000-square-foot building at the corner of Third Avenue and the Middlesex Turnpike. This summer, two additional tenants, Carter’s Diamonds and Fine Jewelry and Boston Interiors, are set to open in the building. At the far end of the parking lot, a new Cambridge Savings Bank branch is operating.

Next door on 3rd Ave, Nordblom is erecting another building to house Tony C’s restaurant and an Italian restaurant that will be overseen by Lydia Shire, a well-known Boston chef. Both are expected to open in September.

Across the road, Nordblom is constructing a building to house a 10,000-square-foot Redstone American Grill, the first location in New England for the Minnesota-based chain.

Nordblom has begun construction and is seeking tenants for two other planned commercial buildings fronting Third Avenue. In one of them, it has agreed to lease space to Paul, a French bakery chain. This summer, Nordblom plans to begin construction on a 180-unit rental apartment building on Second Avenue.

“We are very pleased with the momentum,” Fremont-Smith said of 3rd Ave. “The anchor, Wegmans, is pushing the business. They are opening in the fall and we are trying to catch up with them to make sure the rest of the development opens in time.”