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Old Reebok campus slated to be new post-merger HQ for Tufts Health, Harvard Pilgrim

Insurers will leave their current digs in Watertown and Wellesley.

Reebok headquarters is seen in Canton, Mass., Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2005. Adidas said Wednesday it will buy shoemaker Reebok for $3.8 billion, giving the company about 20 percent of the U.S. market and the potential to better challenge leader Nike Inc. on its home turf. (AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)ASSOCIATED PRESS/Associated Press

Tufts Health Plan and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care have a new home in mind once they complete their merger this year: the former Reebok headquarters in Canton.

The two nonprofit health insurers, based in Watertown and Wellesley respectively, have lined up an agreement with property owner Spear Street Capital to occupy the entire complex, now dubbed “The Block.” The transaction was first reported by trade publication Real Estate Alert on Wednesday.

The details of the Tufts-Harvard Pilgrim move are still hazy. Neither insurer would say much, other than to issue a joint statement confirming the Real Estate Alert story. In that statement, they said several properties were considered as potential homes for the combined organization, and that “The Block in Canton has emerged as a desirable location.” The agreement with Spear Street, they said, “provides the exclusive right to further explore the building and begin drawing up plans for the new company.”

The futuristic complex is the largest available block of empty office space in the Boston suburbs, according to Colliers International research, covering more than 500,000 square feet on 42 acres. The complex was built with Reebok in mind, and comes with amenities such as a running track and an indoor basketball court. The shoe company, a division of Adidas, moved to Boston’s Seaport more than two years ago. Spear Street, the Canton site’s new owners, had marketed it to single users and multiple tenants since Reebok’s departure.

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State officials in January approved a local property tax break valued at $2.9 million over five years, aimed at helping Spear Street renovate and reposition the site. It was unclear what this proposed Tufts-Harvard Pilgrim move would mean for the tax break. (Spear Street chief executive John Grassi couldn’t be reached for comment on Friday.) Spear Street previously sold a roughly 20-acre adjacent parcel to Trillium, the craft brewer.

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Real Estate Alert reported that San Francisco-based Spear Street will swap Tufts’ Watertown property, a 540,000-square-foot complex that Tufts has occupied since 1997, with the Canton campus. Harvard Pilgrim would also move from its Wellesley headquarters to the Canton location, while retaining its other offices including its office in Quincy. About 2,700 employees work at the Tufts headquarters today. Meanwhile, about 500 Harvard Pilgrim employees work at the 126,000-square-foot headquarters in Wellesley, where it has been since 2000.

Tufts, which has a total of 3,800 employees, and Harvard Pilgrim, which employs about 1,400, are planning to complete their merger by the end of September.


Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him @jonchesto.