By Joe Clements
BOSTON—Whether it will change hands by year’s end is unclear, but a coveted Newbury Street commercial building on the final block of the famed retail corridor stretching between the Boston Public Garden and Massachusetts Avenue has a committed buyer ready to pay over $10 million, sources are claiming.
Boston Realty Advisors is exclusive agent advising the longtime owners of 353 Newbury St., heirs of the Johnson Paint Co. family which has held the 9,500- sf building since 1939 and from where the operation runs its flagship store.
BRA principal and retail practice leader Michael A. d’Hemecourt declined to discuss the status of an assignment first unveiled by Real Reporter in late July. New York City based Infinity Real Estate will pay in excess of $1,000 per sf for 353 Newbury St., according to sources, in line with earlier estimates provided in the July article by market prognosticators, although d’Hemecourt deflected questions as to where pricing did ultimately settle.
“That’s a big number,” one Newbury Street expert says of the expected result which that source nonetheless calls “in line” with the going rate for Newbury Street assets, and it seems those on the prowl agreed given the process took at least two “final” rounds of bidding for the winner to distinguish themselves, with IRE seen landing their initial Hub deal after supposedly being in the hunt here on other opportunities. “They made it” on securing 353 Newbury St., concurs one CRE professional in the camp who are claiming 353 Newbury St. will run between $10 million and $11 million and adds it could be an all-cash swap.
In promotional materials, Boston Realty Advisors touts the much-improved block of Newbury Street to Massachusetts Avenue for its evolution this decade attracting several brand retailers to occupy multi-level stores, and d’Hemecourt puts the four-story 353 Newbury St. as a prime candidate for such a conversion. Presently, the space is 57 percent leased by Johnson Paint and LF Stores on short-term pacts, offering near-term upside with a range of scenarios enhanced by large floor plates, “prolific street-grade accessibility” and the eclectic mixed-use nature of the thoroughfare, BRA said in its marketing resources.
“It is a great building with an exceptional location . . . and people responded very strongly,” d’Hemecourt says in relaying the lineup of competition featured local investors and private capital both domestic and from abroad, with institutional funds less enthused due to a preference for assets priced from $20 million and above.
Observers spoken to could not gauge what plans IRE might have in store, with a redevelopment approach aided in having the in-place cash flow from LF Stores and a lease that runs until June 2019 giving time to pursue design and permitting. Johnson Paint Co. is amenable to a leaseback coinciding with the LF Stores expiration should that fit the buyer’s strategy, BRA said in marketing the asset, although d’Hemecourt would not elaborate on that prospect now.
Based on Broadway in NYC, Infinity Real Estate has a diverse investment appetite, outlines one CRE professional familiar with the private investment company. “This fits” the sort of terra firma they pursue, says the broker discussing an entity led by Managing Partner Stephen J. Kassin and Etienne E. Locoh that on its website promotes IRE’s retail focus to be “premier urban and neighborhood” properties as part of a platform that includes apartments, hospitality, office and development. Kassin and Locoh are co-founders of IRE parent Infinity Group along with Ike S. Franco, who leads its Lifestyle Brands division.
For BRA, whose platform extends throughout New England, its base in the Back Bay has proven convenient this year handling multiple listings there, with others on the d’Hemecourt crew including partner Whitney E. Gallivan, Associate Director Christopher J. Donato and Associate Jaime A. Russell also working alongside founding principal Jason S. Weissman to broker this autumn’s sale of 903 Boylston St. across from the Prudential Center for $8.8 million to veteran Back Bay landlord C. Talanian Realty. Loyal Real Reporter readers might recall BRA’s separate assignment marketing 282-286 Newbury St. that came out in 2016 and also is said to be fomenting broad interest.
“It is a good time” to be peddling urban real estate, d’Hemecourt concurs when asked about the activity as the final weeks of 2016 wind down. Although concerns are that rising interest rates could curb real estate deals overall, d’Hemecourt maintains it would take way more than that to knock investors off the Back Bay CRE train, especially for Newbury Street addresses. “We are fine (on demand),” he says. The broker would not hazard a prediction on when negotiations with its unnamed bidder for 353 Newbury St. might conclude, opening up the possibility a closing could kick into the new year. Either way, “it is happening,” insists one of the sources contacted about the reports IRE is in control of the process.
Tags: Back Bay Retail, Capital Markets, Christopher Donato, Jaime Russell, Jason Weissman, Michael D'Hemecourt, Whitney Gallivan