FRAMINGHAM – After buying a stagnating commercial property

FRAMINGHAM – After buying a stagnating commercial property near the Technology Park for $4.4 million, an Arizona company may see its plans to redevelop the site into a self-storage facility thwarted by new zoning rules.

The Planning Board recently resurrected a proposal to rezone commercial areas near the Southborough border. The board hopes to transform the Technology Park and the 9/90 Corporate Center into a more urban environment, with shops, amenities and easy access for walkers and cyclists.

That vision, which surfaced five years ago, could soon be put into practice. City councilors will evaluate a range of ideas this year to revamp the city’s land use rules, including a measure that would create new corporate mixed-use zones near Exit 12 of the Massachusetts Turnpike.

But the changes could stymie plans to re-purpose a commercial property on the Framingham/Southborough line.

AMERCO Real Estate purchased the five-story office building at 15 Pleasant Street Connector in early April for $4,410,000, according to records on file at the Middlesex South Registry of Deeds.

The company, which develops real estate for U-Haul, plans to lease the site for a future storage facility.

While that use would likely be allowed now, a new version of the corporate-mixed use bylaw under review by the city would prohibit storage lockers on the property. Richard J. DeAngelis, a Framingham lawyer representing AMERCO, said the company was previously unaware of the proposed changes, which jeopardize its multimillion-dollar investment.

The glass-top office building, which dates to 1969, was occupied until 2012 by Genzyme. New Jersey-based Normandy Real Estate Partners acquired it the following year for $5.5 million. Normandy planned to launch a major renovation and expansion of the building, winning approval from Framingham in 2014 to increase the size from about 95,000 square feet of office space to as much as 150,000.

But the company struggled to attract tenants. In background information submitted to the Planning Board two years ago, Normandy wrote that it worked with the town and a commercial leasing agent to “aggressively market the site” to no avail.

Across the region, demand for commercial property has fluctuated in recent years, though new research suggests the outlook for MetroWest is positive. A market overview published last month by CBRE New England notes that lower rents along the I-495 belt could persuade more companies to leave Boston’s urban core. The vacancy rate for commercial property has declined steadily over the last three quarters, the report notes, falling to about 20 percent, compared with a 7 percent vacancy rate closer to Boston.

AMERCO, which operates from an office in Phoenix, acquires land, self-storage facilities and existing buildings for conversion to self-storage, according to its website.

Discussing the company’s plans earlier this month, DeAngelis said if the city is successful in attracting younger workers, many would benefit from a storage service when they relocate to Framingham. He asked members of the Planning Board to remove storage and distribution activity from its list of uses that would be prohibited.

But after tailoring the bylaw for several years, board members were unswayed, saying a storage facility won’t make the corporate mixed-use area more attractive.

“I would agree that it’s unfortunate that it’s a prohibited use now for your particular client,” member Tom Mahoney said, “but I think in the long run this bylaw is good for the community, and good for that area.”

This article provided by NewsEdge.