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Activity raises hopeful note on HP campus

THE BOSTON GLOBE  – Developers are looking to have the former Hewlett-Packard Co. campus in Marlborough bustling before long.

About one-third of the vacant office space is expected to be occupied in May, a 153-room Hilton Garden Inn aims to be under construction this summer, and a 350-unit apartment complex is on target to be available for lease next year, according to the management company overseeing the development along Forest Street.

It wasn’t long ago that city officials faced the possibility of having more than 1.5 million square feet of vacant office and lab space.

In 2011, Fidelity Investments announced that it would be moving more than 1,000 workers out of an office park adjacent to the Hewlett-Packard site. Months later, Atlantic Management Corp. purchased the property that Hewlett-Packard had been slowly vacating. The 109-acre parcel, with 750,000 square feet of office and lab space, was sold for $9 million.

“It was kind of a fire sale,” said Mayor Arthur Vigeant. “We didn’t know much about Atlantic and we were a little concerned at that point. The Fidelity site and HP were both up in the air. Now we have both properties being developed, and we just couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Fidelity sold its site to Framingham-based retailer TJX Cos. in 2012 for $62.5 million, and later that year the city approved an overlay district designation for the old Hewlett-Packard site that allows for mixed-use development.

The zoning change was key in luring projects like the hotel and apartments, said Joseph Zink, president of Atlantic Management, which is also based in Framingham.

“Companies have to see a clear path to get a project completed,” Zink said. “The city painted a very clear picture with us.”

The hotel proposal, presented to the city in March, is the latest development at the site, and is under review by the City Council’s Urban Affairs Committee.

The residential complex is being developed by AvalonBay, which purchased 23.5 acres from Atlantic for $14.88 million last year. Work recently started on it, Zink said.

Last September, Quest Diagnostics, a New Jersey-based medical testing services company, agreed to lease 205,000 square feet for lab space, and spend more than $60 million to renovate it. The company will begin moving in next month, Zink said.

The quick turnaround at the Fidelity site and the addition of Quest helped stave off rising office vacancies, which were at 34 percent in 2012 and fell to 22 percent last year, according to the Marlborough Economic Development Corporation.

There are a few more items remaining on the plate for the HP site’s redevelopment: 50,000 square feet of retail space, and potentially another 350,000 square feet in office space, Zink said. The retail space is expected to be leased by several smaller stores, he said.

When it’s completed, the HP site will be a “corporate campus,” a place that offers housing and other amenities primarily aimed at the people who work in the neighboring offices, Zink said. And while the site is known as the old Hewlett-Packard campus, it is being now being dubbed by developers as Marlborough Hills.

“The idea is a company could provide all the amenities that you may see in a more urban environment,” Zink said. “A place where people can go to work, do some shopping, maybe get a drink, and walk the entire time. How many environments can you do that in outside of downtown Boston?”

The site has an assessed value of $31.7 million, according to city records. Vigeant said he expects that the valuation could double in the next two to four years. The redevelopment will also bring jobs. Quest Diagnostics alone expects to have about 1,200 people working there in the coming years.

“We’re looking forward to having these projects completed and having the additional people and jobs in Marlborough,” the mayor said.

This article originally appeared here.