The Real Reporter
July 23, 2018
BOSTON—Some investors buy on the margin. In Allston-Brighton, Mount Vernon Co. just bought on the hyphen. The homegrown firm led by founding principal Bruce Percelay paid $12 million Friday for 103 North Beacon St. a 27,350-sf commercial building Boston Realty Advisors listed for sale this March, the well-regarded 1.5-acre property serving as longtime home to Wolfers Lighting and its elaborate showroom.
“We have a long history in Allston-Brighton, so we know the area very well, and we consider this the best site available,” Percelay says regarding an opportunity he calls “very competitive” to rein in but worth the effort due to favorable physical aspects such as being a rectangular layout and offering “great visibility” along a main corridor running from Union Square to Newton and Watertown. Multiple bus lines, the Green Line subway and a new commuter rail station are all within walking distance of the building.
Even more enticing, observes Percelay, is the location right where Allston’s 02134 zip code melds into Brighton’s 02135, i.e. the figurative “hyphen” so centered that its two most ambitious CRE undertakings are on either side of 103 North Beacon St. One is Boston Landing, the New Balance Corp. repositioning of an industrial wasteland into its headquarters plus training facilities for both the Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics with a blend of office and retail thrown into the pot. On the other side, Stop & Shop is teaming with New England Development to transform an aging retail plaza into a massive mixed-use ensemble of entertainment, multifamily and retail space anchored by a modern supermarket.
“We have a lot of stakes in Allston-Brighton, and in many ways we feel we started the ball rolling over there with our Green District project (an acclaimed mixed-use complex bordering Brookline),” relays Percelay, adding, “Exciting things are happening all over the area, and we felt we understood the market and the site enough to do what we needed to do” to outpace the competition. Says Percelay: “It stands out as a very unique property and we are very happy at having (acquired) it.”
Mount Vernon Co. represented itself in-house, with BRA the exclusive agents for N.B. Associates Realty Trust, a private family enterprise which paid $1.75 million for 103 North Beacon St. back in May 1996. As Percelay indicated, BRA founding principal Jason S. Weissman says 103 North Beacon St. fomented a broad and deep reaction when put on the block. “All of the major players were in the mix,” recounts Weissman. “It was a hard-fought victory by Mount Vernon Co., who did everything right, as they always do, to win the transaction.” One factor driving activity was the asset’s flexibility in future uses, explains Weissman. “The possibilities are endless,” he says, “and everybody wants to be in Allston-Brighton today.”
Weissman oversaw the assignment with a half-dozen other BRA professionals, among them partners Michael d’Hemecourt and Nicholas M. Herz. Managing Director Michael Jezienicki, Director Ryan M. Hurd and Associate Directors Christopher J. Donato and Kevin Benzinger also guided prospective suitors. “I appreciate the hard work our team did to handle the tremendous response,” says Weissman. “The interest was incredible and things moved very quickly.”
Percelay, whose company just received approvals for a mixed-use project on the other side of Boston Landing across from the Charles River, says there are no immediate plans for altering 103 North Beacon St. “We are just taking our time and considering what makes the most sense there,” he says, one influence for the measured approach being the aforementioned flexibility for the asset beyond a residential project, among the most popular idea at present due to favorable regulations to increase the housing stock.
For Allston-Brighton, however, thanks to the presence of major learning institutions including Boston College, Boston University and Harvard University, demand could be forthcoming for an alternative strategy, perhaps healthcare, laboratory or office space, outlines Percelay. Having the building 39 percent leased to Wolfers Lighting and another tenant also will deliver the needed cash flow while plans are formulated and permitted, Percelay says, enabling the calmer pace.
Wolfers is in 16,775 sf until 2023, having inked a five-year pact last summer with a trio of five-year options. The other denizen is there to 2026. Percelay did not say whether he intends to market the remaining footprint to further increase revenues, or keep it clear with a redevelopment play in mind. One suggestion offered to bidders by BRA in the marketing campaign was to do a complete demolition to facilitate a bigger project, something which does not appear imminent by the new steward. “We do not need to push it,” Percelay says. “And we have plenty of other things keeping us busy.”
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