There are still big believers in Massachusetts manufacturing. Just ask the folks at Artemis Real Estate Partners in Chevy Chase, Md.
The real estate investment firm made a big bet on one of the most high-profile manufacturing plants in the state, buying the former Evergreen Solar factory and its 23-acre site in Devens for $36.1 million in late May from Calare Properties and Hackman Capital Partners.
The nearly 400,000-square-foot building is fully leased, divided between two tenants. But one of them, French manufacturer Saint-Gobain, recently shuttered its operations there. So it’s likely Artemis will seek a new tenant or tenants for about half of the space. Nypro, the Clinton-based plastics manufacturer, moved into the other half in 2013.
The property at 112 Barnum Road became an infamous symbol of government giveaways following the millions in public money that state officials awarded to Evergreen Solar to help build the plant. At one point, as many as 800 people worked at the factory, which opened in 2008. But the good times didn’t last long: The solar manufacturer was outmaneuvered by Chinese rivals, and shuttered the plant in 2011.
MassDevelopment, which oversees the Devens industrial park, recovered some of the money it invested in the project when Calare and Hackman bought the site via a bankruptcy process for nearly $8.5 million in 2012.
Bill Manley, chief executive at Hudson-based Calare, said the new owners invested $20.5 million in the property, including the acquisition costs. The main goal was to subdivide and reposition the property for multiple tenants. The electrical work alone cost more than $2 million, he said.
“There was a certain amount of risk that was involved in the transaction,” Manley said.
If this purchase was a risk, it was a gamble that paid off, now that the buyers have nearly doubled their initial investment with the sale. Brokerage CBRE/New England represented the sellers in the transaction.
Calare executives said there was tremendous interest in the property when they put it up for sale recently: About 50 confidentiality agreements were signed by potential buyers who wanted more information, and about a dozen or so toured the facility.
Manley said the sale price shows solid faith in the local manufacturing sector. A spokeswoman for Artemis couldn’t be reached for comment.
“The message here in Massachusetts is manufacturing is still alive and well,” Manley said. “You just have to look for it a little bit.”
With Saint-Gobain gone, Artemis has some work ahead. But Manley said he doesn’t expect it will be hard for the new owner to find a replacement, potentially involving drug manufacturing or injection molding.
“If you’re looking for 200,000 square feet of contiguous, high-tech manufacturing space on one floorplate, there are not a lot of places for that” in this region, Manley said.Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.