Healthpeak pays $121M for more land by Alewife; Planning Board ponders work amid moratorium
The Denver company Healthpeak spent another $41 million on Alewife-area property on Nov. 27, adding 125 Fawcett St. to the $391 million portfolio it’s built since August, according to documents filed Tuesday with the Middlesex Registry of Deeds. Another $80 million was recorded from the month for properties at 725 Concord Ave. and Smith Place.
The company now has two dozen parcels in the Cambridge Highlands near the Alewife T station. Tuesday’s addition is warehouse and office space occupied by Artisan Interiors, which specializes in furniture made of sustainably harvested wood. The two structures – built in 1905 and 1970 and in poor condition, according to the city assessor’s office – account for around 93,000 square feet of industrial property.
When last sold May 21, 2004, to Somerville’s Belam Realty, it cost $2.2 million. That makes the Healthpeak purchase a 1,764 percent markup in 17.5 years.
Heathpeak also executed Nov. 27 what looks like an option to buy 12,300 square feet at 110 Fawcett St. from Belam. That’s now a warehouse that hosts a Revolutionary Clinics medical marijuana dispensary.
Transactions from Nov. 3 show the company spending $80 million for 725 Concord Ave. and 35, 49 and 59 Smith Place, all owned by David Marcus Partners, a venture of The Davis Cos. and Marcus Partners. The Concord Avenue property – last bought in February 2007 for $18.4 million – is a six-story medical office building leased wholly to Mount Auburn Hospital in a 15-year agreement signed in January 2017. The Smith Place properties are parking lots bought in December 2016 for a combined $15 million.
No representative or spokesperson has been made available by Healthpeak.
Prompting a moratorium proposal
Healthpeak builds and manages medical offices and retirement communities as well as labs, but in declaring its Alewife property for labs has inspired a potential moratorium on any being added to the area. A City Council vote held Nov. 15 moved forward the idea of a moratorium on additional office and laboratory uses in the area until Dec. 31, 2023, or “such time as new Alewife District zoning is ordained”; city officials and residents alike spoke of their frustration that city-run planning processes dating back to 1979 have never been formally enacted.
Companies often point to aspects of those planning processes that their projects follow or promise that they will, suggesting that formal enactment isn’t necessary.
That’s been the case in the Cambridge Highlands from Healthpeak and other developers who now worry about being caught up in a Healthpeak-inspired moratorium. The council heard those concerns from a representative of The Davis Cos. in November; on Tuesday the Planning Board consulted with city staff on how it would affect the plan they heard that night – a Cabot, Cabot & Forbes affiliate’s pitch for a four-story lab development at 160-180 Fawcett St., between properties now owned by Healthpeak.
How to handle the conflict
If the moratorium is adopted, it becomes effective for any development that doesn’t already have a building permit or special permit, said Jeff Roberts, the city’s director of zoning and development. But it’s not unique to have a zoning proposal pending that might affect projects in various stages of approval.
“It’s actually been fairly common at the Planning Board to have these kinds of cases that overlap,” Roberts said. “It creates somewhat of a state of limbo, but usually our suggestion – and usually the way the planning board proceeds with these cases – is just to proceed,” since no outcome for the moratorium or any project is known.
The moratorium hasn’t been scheduled for either a Planning Board hearing or one before the council’s own Ordinance Committee.
Projects and purchases
On Tuesday, members of the Planning Board simply voted to continue the Cabot hearing to get more information on such things as the amount of green roof on the project and the proposed building’s overall “cool factor,” which shows how much the design responds to climate change by trying to counteract an increasingly hot world.
No Healthpeak projects have made it to the Planning Board agenda.With its purchases so far totaling $432 million since August the company still seems to be buying to complete what it’s described to investors as a $616 million, 36-acre life-sciences cluster.
In other development news, the Crimson Court Apartments at 375 Harvard St., Mid-Cambridge, sold in November for $30 million, according to the Bldup real estate platform. The four-story building with 60 residential units was built in 1965.
This post was updated Dec. 13, 2021, with information about purchases on Concord Avenue and Smith Place.