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BioMed Acquires John Hancock's Vacant Former Seaport HQ

The 601 Congress St. property in Boston's Seaport.

BioMed Realty Trust is acquiring the former John Hancock Life Insurance Co. headquarters in the Seaport, its first foray into the neighborhood becoming a lab hub.

The Blackstone subsidiary is paying $362M to assume the 95-year lease at 601 Congress St., it announced Tuesday. The 482K SF, 14-story property has been vacant since John Hancock moved its headquarters in 2018 to the Back Bay.

“The acquisition of this large-scale, world-class building offers growth opportunities for our current tenant roster of over 230 life science companies and is ideally situated to welcome new tenant relationships into our BioMed portfolio,” BioMed Vice President Colleen O’Connor said in a statement.

Representatives for John Hancock didn't respond to requests for comment.

Newmark, which brokered the deal, said the property offers flexible workspaces and the ability to accommodate various amenities ideal for a life sciences conversion. The building is the only LEED v4 Platinum-certified building in Massachusetts, a benchmark for high-performance green structures, according to Newmark.

BioMed acquired the lease on Dec. 30. The Massachusetts Port Authority owns the land under the building, Suffolk County land records show. A mortgage agreement with Morgan Stanley for 601 Congress St. was also signed in mid-December, records show.

The move is one of the first major deals of the new year, overshadowed Wednesday by Alexandria’s $1.52B purchase of Fenway assets in another life sciences play. The ultra-competitive life sciences market continues to outpace office activity, which recorded a record 4.1M SF of negative absorption in 2020, according to Colliers’ Q4 2020 Market Viewpoint.

BioMed has been active in scooping up life sciences assets outside of the cramped Kendall Square and East Cambridge hub, where Colliers reports vacancies at just 1.6%. The company’s current Boston-area portfolio is 100% leased, it said in Tuesday’s statement. The commercial real estate landscape prompted BioMed to nix plans for apartments at the XMBLY development it acquired near Assembly Row in Somerville to make way for 100K SF of office and lab space.

At 601 Congress, John Hancock's parent company, Manulife, struggled to find tenants to fill the space despite an active office market before the coronavirus pandemic struck last March. Previous talks with WeWork and State Street didn’t come to fruition before Newmark came on board to sell the property.