Atlantic wheels and deals as another big tenant hunts for space (Yes, another Marlborough story)

Another day, another big deal in Marlborough.

Less than a week after these pages last spotlighted the economic renaissance underway in MetroWest’s city of industry, sources have confirmed that a “major optics company” is targeting a 100,000-square-foot space along Locke Drive, just north of the Route 20 and I-495 interchange. Details on the company and property address involved in the negotiations were unavailable, although a person familiar with the matter said the business is a major player in the development and manufacture of laser-based technologies used in a swath of industries and applications. A lease is expected to be inked in the next quarter, according to those same sources, who asked not to be identified.

Should the transaction close as expected, it would represent the second major relocation or expansion news in Marlborough in as many weeks. Economic development experts say it would also represent another big win for the city’s nascent optics- and imaging-technology cluster led by the likes of Corning Netoptix (230 employees) and Hologic (274 employees). Indeed, Hologic itself has been the subject of rumors about a possible expansion or relocation to larger space from its current operations at 250 Campus Drive.

All of which is going as planned, or something thereabouts, for Joe Zink and his development team at Atlantic Management in Framingham. Atlantic wrote the first chapter in Marlborough’s comeback story in 2011 when it acquired a vacant, 110-acre office park that was long anchored by Hewlett-Packard and various divisions of Digital Equipment. That parcel has since been sliced and diced to accommodate what Zink predicts will be the largest and most comprehensive mixed-use development along the I-495 belt.

Last fall, Atlantic carved out a 24-acre chunk of the complex and flipped it for $15 million to AvalonBay Communities. For anyone keeping home at score, that price was 67 percent more than the $9 million Atlantic paid for the entire H-P campus just two years prior. But I digress.

The dealmaking continued earlier this month when Atlantic inked a deal with Hilton Hotels to build a new 162-room Garden Inn on the property. Zink said additional plans are underway for a 10,000-square-foot daycare center as well as some 40,000 square feet of ground-level retail space. He said the entire development, along with AvalonBay’s plans to build 350 apartments, will be integrated and designed to flow around the property’s two office properties.

Zink said the blueprint was integral to the recruitment of his two major office tenants, the first being Quest Diagnostics (signed for nearly 200,000 square feet in 2012) and the second being this week’s announcement involving GE Healthcare. He said there is about 180,000 square feet of vacant office and R&D space today, although there are options to expand as needed.

Give the region’s momentum, he isn’t sweating the prospect of recruiting a new tenants to plug that gap. For starters, he said big employers have been drawn to the Marlborough area’s affordability for their workers. He said the convenience of his live-work complex also is proving a big draw, both for on-campus employees as well as anyone traveling up and down the I-495 corridor.

“The days of just having ‘space’ are coming to an end,” Zink said, alluding to the traditional office-park property model.

Marlborough property records indicate there are multiple options for a major lease along Locke Drive, the site of the latest big-deal rumors. Many of the local parcels are owned by veteran commercial property managers and real estate investment trusts, STAG Industrial among them, and numerous properties include floor plates that could easily accommodate a minimum of 100,000 square feet of space for a single tenant.

It’s still unclear whether the deal involving the rumored optics company will ever come to fruition, although real estate and economic development sources say it is nearly complete. Regardless, Zink said his confidence in Marlborough is unwavering. “We see it as a ripe area.”