Technology park off I-495 hopes to lure tenants with upgrade
Hoping to lure technology firms seeking space along the Interstate 495 corridor, an area business park is making major renovations to its 130-acre campus in Billerica, Lowell, and Tewksbury.
Riverview Technology Park last week completed the $6 million first phase of a planned $30 million multiyear upgrade on the sprawling former Raytheon site, along the Concord River near I-495’s Exit 37.
“We are going full speed ahead because we see the demand out there for this type of space. It is there now and we are perfectly poised to capture it,” said William Manley, managing partner and chief investment officer at Calare Properties Inc. in Hudson.
Calare and Los Angeles-based Hackman Capital entered a joint venture to purchase the partially developed industrial site in 2008 with the intent of transforming it into a business park that would cater to technology and biotechnology companies along with compatible uses.
The economic recession put the effort largely on hold, but Riverview’s owners have now stepped up their marketing of the campus, which they hope will be boosted by their investment in renovations.
“Our vision is to create a premier, high-tech hub for top-tier global and local organizations,” Michael Hackman, CEO of Hackman Capital, stated in an announcement on the renovation project.
The largest portion of the property is in Billerica, which is also where most of the approximately 707,000 square feet of developed space is located.
The focus of the renovation’s first phase was the largest building, a mostly vacant 563,322-square-foot structure at 495 Woburn St. that straddles the Billerica and Tewksbury line.
The work, which began at the end of last year, involved repositioning the building’s front entrance and constructing a new, angled-glass lobby, according to Manley, who helped host an open house at the park for local officials and real estate professionals last Thursday.
Other improvements included adding exterior lighting on the building and a 450-space parking lot in front to supplement the 1,500 spaces in the rear. There also were upgrades to campus roads and signs.
The second phase includes the just-begun installation of additional windows at the 495 Woburn St. building, the construction of an interior courtyard, and an accompanying series of adjacent facilities for tenants, such as fitness areas, a café, and a meeting space.
“It will be a place where your employees can go if they want to get out of the office for a minute,” Manley said. “They won’t have to get in their car and leave the campus to have a cup of coffee.”
Other interior renovations will be carried out as businesses locate in the building, based on their space needs.
The building currently has a single tenant, a microwave-antennae manufacturer that is leasing 20,000 square feet.
A second manufacturing building, at 515 Woburn St., is fully leased but largely vacant. A commercial printer that leases most of the building has relocated and is seeking to sublet its space. The remainder is leased by a local trade school.
The park’s other two buildings are warehouse facilities, totaling 17,900 square feet of space, both of which are fully leased.
Billerica Town Administrator John C. Curran said the community welcomes the owner’s investment.
“What they are doing up there is exactly the kind of business we want to attract,” he said, observing that life sciences and emerging technology are “where the jobs are, and what the future of the national economy is going to be.”
Billerica already has had several notable successes in attracting businesses in those fields, Curran said. As examples, he noted that Pharmalucence Inc., a drug manufacturer, recently relocated from Bedford to Billerica, while E Ink Corp., a supplier to the e-book industry, is moving its Cambridge operations to town.
Billerica’s economic development coordinator, Stephanie Cronin, has been assisting the Riverview park’s owners with their leasing efforts, and Curran said the town stands ready to expedite permitting to help attract companies to the property.
Steven Sadwick, Tewksbury’s community development director, said by e-mail that the town “through its Board of Selectmen, Planning Board, and Economic Development Committee is pleased that the owners have chosen to invest in this property on the border of Tewksbury, Billerica, and Lowell.
“It has been the focus of targeted economic development efforts, and with the owners’ completion of this phase, it will assist in both filling the facility with tenants as well as provide momentum for up to 250,000 square feet of new additional office/research space in the future,” he stated.
The site has an additional 20 acres of buildable land that the owners plan to develop when they secure tenants. Manley said the land is suitable for a 250,000-square-foot manufacturing building.
If the existing buildings were to be fully leased, Manley said, 1,000 to 1,300 people could be employed by the tenant businesses. Currently, there are 60 to 70 employees on the campus.
Despite the economy’s slow recovery, Manley said, he is confident the Riverview development will prove successful. “New England is a particularly land-constrained market,” he said. “This is the only site of its size in this market that is ready to go right now.”