Mass. development company purchases ‘huge’ former Goss International property

New owner sees ‘tremendous amount of opportunity’ for 500,000-square-foot facility, 170-acre site in Durham
121 Technology Drive Durham

The former Goss International property in Durham, which includes a 500,000-square foot-building and about 170 acres of land, has been acquired by R.J. Kelly Co., of Burlington, Mass. (Photo by Paul Briand)

The sprawling commercial property originally developed by printing press maker Goss International in 1986 off Route 155A in Durham has been purchased by R.J. Kelly Co., its CEO Brandon Kelly describing the parcel as unique in the region.

“There are very few properties like this, really in New England, this close to Boston and the Seacoast with such tremendous infrastructure, such large parcels, and such great existing buildings that can serve a variety of uses,” said Kelly, who heads the Burlington, Mass.-based RJK.

The building itself encompasses about 500,000 square feet of office and manufacturing space, while the land is in excess of 170 acres, creating the potential for adding more office, light industrial or research and development space on the property, which is located at 121 Technology Drive in Durham.

Durham Town Administrator Todd Selig described RJK’s purchase of the underutilized property as “a match made in heaven – it checks a lot of the boxes we like to see at the local level.”

“All together, the parcel consists of 171.64 acres in Durham. This means there is a lot of opportunity for development with municipal water, sewer, and access roadways already in place,” said Selig. “Full buildout of the parcel for Durham would mean a significant broadening of the local tax base, new jobs and on-site workers who would support Durham’s downtown business community by shopping in and eating locally.”

Goss International, maker and supplier of printing press and production equipment, built on the property in 1986, adding to it and renovating it in 2003.

As the printing industry declined, the building has changed hands over the years to various entities and partnerships. R.J. Kelly, using 121 Tech Drive LLC as the purchasing entity, bought the property from Lexington Durham Limited Partnership for $21 million in October.

Kelly said RJK is not new to New Hampshire. “We’ve actually been active in New Hampshire for probably 10 years now,” said Kelly, noting that storage facilities were among its real estate portfolio here in addition to other properties in southern New Hampshire.

“This is one that is unique in that it’s a very large land parcel with a tremendous amount of opportunity,” said Kelly.

‘A unicorn and a whale’

At three stories, with a combination of office space and high-ceilinged manufacturing and warehousing space, Kelly said the property is very scalable – appropriate for a single tenant or multiple tenants.

“We had a joke internally that this is a unicorn and a whale – a unicorn in that it’s so unique, and a whale in that it’s so darn big,” said Kelly.

He added its size is “really what attracted us to this site. It is a huge parcel of land. It has the potential for a significant amount of additional development. What’s there today could prove very valuable to a variety of different users. It has a tremendous amount of power, which is very unique. It has a lot of existing office space. It has a tremendous amount of industrial space with excellent clear heights.”

He also said he can see how the property, even as large as it is, could potentially be attractive to a single tenant.

“That’s what we really like about it: If there is a need for a large amount of offices, if there isn’t a need for a large amount of offices, that can be scaled down,” he said. “There’s just not a lot of properties in this region where you can really cater to a large-scale tenant that has significant needs for square footage, for power, for clear height and for expandability.”

Kelly expects some cosmetic work to the interior of the building to perhaps expose more of the ceiling in the office area to give it a more open feel. But any extensive work really depends on the tenant or tenants, he said.

They’ll work with an architectural firm to render some concepts of how the building might look, with the emphasis on “might.”

“You never know with an existing building like this, especially with the office market today, if people are going to have a demand for the amount of office that we have there,” he said. “So the office space you wouldn’t really speculatively invest substantially because there may not be a need for it.”

Currently, parts of the building are used by University of New Hampshire-related programs, including Northeast Passage and the John Olson Advanced Manufacturing Center. Northeast Passage creates and delivers barrier-free recreation and health promotion programs for people living with disabling conditions. The Olson Center gives students access to innovative manufacturing technologies and allows visualization of manufacturing concepts to complement the skills learned in traditional classroom settings.

Kelly described them as “unbelievable services,” saying, “We’re very committed to UNH there. If our ultimate plans do change for that site and the way it works, we’ll certainly do everything we can to help UNH have the best home possible, whether it’s on that site or elsewhere. We’re excited to partner with UNH and work with UNH.”

The UNH connection is one reason Selig is optimistic about the ultimate success of the RJK venture.

“Because Durham hosts UNH, companies interested in locating here can develop partnerships and synergies with cutting edge University-related research work,” he said. “In addition, there’s a lot of focus these days in last-mile delivery for distributors.”

The former Goss parcel, he said – located at the junction of Route 4 and Route 108 and in close proximity to the Spaulding Turnpike and Routes 125 and 101 “would be a strong solution for many companies looking to access the New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine markets.”

Over its 60-year history, RJK has invested in or developed more than 20 million square feet of commercial space, plus hundreds of multifamily and single-family dwellings, along with self-storage facilities, in the New England region.

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