Management Upbeat about Prospects for Repurposed Riverwalk Labs

November 13, 2023
The Riverwalk Labs complex at the end of Oak Park Drive has been converted from software industry offices into 168,000 square feet of space that can accommodate life sciences or advanced manufacturing. Photo Credit: Carly Gillis Photography

The former Progress Software headquarters at the end of Oak Park Drive has been converted to 168,000 square feet of space that can accommodate life sciences or advanced manufacturing.

Redgate, the Boston-based real estate development firm, purchased the property in 2022, in a joint venture with AEW Capital Management and Optimum Asset Management.

The complex has been branded Riverwalk Labs; there are trails on the property that lead to the banks of the Shawsheen River.

Thomas Hamill, a Redgate co-founder, said renovations began on the day the sale closed in April of last year. “Progress was selling,” Hamill said. “We saw an opportunity.”

According to the assessors’ database, the sale price was $27 million. The transformation, which is nearly complete, cost $40 million just for the base building, Hamill said. Real estate taxes on the property over the past six quarters exceeded $850,000, along with almost $25,000 to the community preservation fund.

“There are several active interested parties with which we are in discussions,” said Michael O’Leary, executive director of the Boston office of Cushman & Wakefield, the real estate services firm. Prospects are considering as little as 40,000 square feet and as much as the full complex, he said. “In contrast to the market, we’ve got very good activity here.”

“It’s a challenging market,” Hamill agreed. “This building is unique and we are seeing pretty decent activity.”

That has a lot to do with location, he said. “When it comes to emerging technologies, Bedford has become a hotbed of activity. The town government is supportive of life sciences and emerging technologies and has helpful zoning, permitting, and economic development teams in place.”

He said the model is Redgate’s Bedford Labs, a former office complex on Crosby Drive converted in 2020, “when there was a renewed focus on life sciences and robust investment.  People were looking to repurpose. So, we sought to continue that.”

Matt Hanson, Town Manager (striped tie) and Jeff King, Housing and Economic Development Manager (left of Hanson) visited the Grand Opening Celebration on October 11th. Photo credit: Carly Gillis Photography

Like several other executives and developers along the Middlesex Turnpike-Crosby Drive corridor, Hamill lauded the region’s educated workforce, “many of whom don’t want to commute.”

Bedford town government “has been open and supportive,” Hamill said, with town officials showing up for some visits by prospective tenants. 

“The town has done a fantastic job with this life sciences, manufacturing, and emerging technologies cluster,” O’Leary said. “And there will be more coming. Exciting developments in technology are being developed and supported here.”

He envisions occupancy beginning in about eight months – “the third quarter of 2024” – and should continue for about a year. He explained that sufficient time is required for negotiations, additional construction, and fit-out for the tenants’ requirements.

“The ‘bones’ of the building are great,” Hamill testified. “The structure is different – effectively two linked buildings with common space, two stories with a very large floorplate.” 

When the building was sold, Hamill said, some offices were arrayed so “we couldn’t see windows.” Now most of the interior at 14-16 Oak Park Drive has been gutted, so prospective tenants can customize for their space needs. The marketing says space can be “easily demised into 20,000 square feet of lab/office clusters.”

Hamill pointed out some significant infrastructure additions that the owners expect will accommodate end users:

  • There are four rooftop air handlers, each capable of providing significant amounts of outside air to tenant lab space and office space. The equipment is “the engine of the building,” Hamill said, allowing for 100 percent air exchange required for some categories of effective laboratory work. 
  • Multiple loading docks, which can accommodate the business classifications of life sciences, green tech, “tough tech,” and small advanced manufacturing. 
  • Two centralized or neutralization systems with risers for future tenant connections.

“It’s very easy for us to capitalize on a business plan,” O’Leary said. He called the flexibility “adaptable reuse,” which increases along with the space used. The complex can accommodate an operation as small as 14,000 square feet, he noted. 

Common-space features such as fitness and wellness rooms and a café/lounge, to be operated by Craft Food Halls, are complete, designed to “attract and engage and create a culture.” Hamill said the conference rooms are designed to have the feel of living rooms. “You come here and you don’t need to leave.”  There are other shared amenities: outdoor pickleball and basketball courts, a bike storage area.

“Our distinct repurposing with a more modern urban feel juxtaposed with this nature environment – bringing the outside in through use of materials, color palette, wellness center,” he described. “The urban part is: we want to bring the energy. And we want users to feel they have a place to collaborate.” 

Promotional banners that prospective tenants encounter hand on the open floor of Riverwalk. Staff Photo Mike Rosenberg.

As prospective tenants check out the vast open floor on the second floor of 14 Oak Park Dr., they encounter a series of vertical banners extolling the advantages of the location – hypothetical floor plans, for office and lab space, branding opportunities, the area’s natural beauty. 

One of the banners promotes “the life sciences community of Bedford/Burlington.” Another presents a detailed list of “local resources,” featuring hotels, shopping, fitness, and restaurants in Bedford and Burlington.

“When it comes to emerging technologies, Bedford has become a hotbed of activity,” says the Riverwalk Lab brochure under the heading: “Where Innovation Happens.” 

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