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State official tours MetroWest development sites

September 27, 2011 – Gregory Bialecki, the state secretary of housing and economic development, spent Monday afternoon touring three of MetroWest’s hottest potential economic development sites.

Bialecki’s office, along with a consortium of state and regional planning agencies, are putting the finishing touches on a year-long study – the 495/MetroWest Development Compact – to prioritize development and conservation sites in MetroWest. “These sites have really been chosen by the communities as areas of potential growth,” he said.

Bialecki started the tour at the vacant former Hewlett-Packard campus on Forest Street in Marlborough, which is adjacent to a Fidelity campus that is expected to be empty by the end of next year. He then went on to Northborough to a site under construction near Interstate 495 and then finished the day in Westborough, where he toured the former site of the state hospital.

“We’re looking at ways to work with the property owners, the local officials and others to see if we can reach a consensus on where the promising development sites are in the region and what we can do to accelerate growth at those sites,” he said.

Properties With Promise

Bialecki’s first stop of the day was the former HP site in Marlborough, which is made up of 750,000 square feet of office and manufacturing space. The campus sits on 109 acres and was recently purchased by Atlantic-Marlborough Realty LLC of Framingham, a commercial real estate investment and development firm managed by Atlantic Management of Framingham.

Joseph Zink, the president of Atlantic Management, told Bialecki about the tremendous potential he believes the site holds to house a variety of development ventures.

Anything from a corporate headquarters to a mixed-use commercial and residential development, a retail shopping center, education or health care center would suit the site, Zink said.

Zink’s firm purchased the site from HP for $8.7 million in a real estate transaction that was recorded by the Middlesex County Registry of Deeds on the last day in August.

“Hopefully the next time we’ll be out here it will be for a ground breaking,” Zink said at the event.

He’s hoping to ideally lease the space to a tenant that would be likely to raze the buildings and build new. But he tempered expectations and said it could be a long process before a new tenant is found for the property.

After viewing the HP site, Bialecki then went on to a site in Northborough that is already under construction.

Kathy Joubert, the Northborough town planner, said FedEx Freight recently got permits to construct a 43,000-square-foot facility on a 22-acre site in Northborough. It is part of a much larger block of land controlled by the Gutierrez Co. of Burlington that Joubert said includes both developed and undeveloped land.

Bialecki ended his tour at a site where state and regional officials are studying reuse options -Westborough State Hospital.

Officials with the state’s Department of Capital Asset Management, along with almost a dozen other government and development organizations, are studying options for the former state hospital site. Local officials in Westborough have recently expressed an interest in maintaining local control of the site – or part of the site to help guide its future use.

Bialecki said the redevelopment of all three sites will be driven by market demand, but he said it’s important for the state to consider ways it can help in terms of providing infrastructure support, financial support, or marketing efforts.

Bialecki called Marlborough, Northborough and Westborough the “heart of where we’ve seen business growth in the region.”

He added that state and regional officials are on track to finish the 495/MetroWest Development Compact work by the end of the year.

This story originally appeared here