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A buy for Brookline Bancorp

Lender adds old home of Hard Rock Cafe

A line snaked around the Hard Rock Cafe on Clarendon Street in 1995 during auditions for MTV’s “The Real World.’’ A line snaked around the Hard Rock Cafe on Clarendon Street in 1995 during auditions for MTV’s “The Real World.’’ (Jim Davis/Globe Staff/File 1995)
By Steven Syre
Globe Staff / July 9, 2011

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The new owner of the Hard Rock Cafe’s old Back Bay home probably won’t be hanging guitars from the walls.

The small office building at 131 Clarendon St. that housed the rock club on its ground floor will soon house the more staid operations of Brookline Bancorp, which purchased the property last month for $13.9 million.

The bank has many of its back office and administrative operations split among buildings in Brookline Village, said its president Paul Perrault, and had been looking for a more practical location to put more of those functions under one roof.

“We had been unable to really find a reasonable space to accommodate our needs and then, voila, we came across this gem of a building,’’ said Perrault.

The Clarendon Street building hosted the Hard Rock for 18 years until the club, with its guitars and other music memorabilia, moved to its current location near Faneuil Hall in 2007. The bank purchased the building from an entity associated with two development firms, the Beal Cos. of Boston and Related Cos. of New York. Beal and Related purchased the building as part of a larger parcel from John Hancock Financial Services in 2005. The developers built the luxury Clarendon residential complex on the portion of the parcel fronting Stuart Street.

Perrault said he was unsure if the Back Bay building would become the official headquarters of the bank with Brookline in its name or simply serve as one of its facilities. One important clue: Perrault said his office will definitely be there.

Brookline Bancorp has been growing beyond its suburban Boston business footprint over the past nine months by acquiring other banks. It agreed to purchase First Ipswich Bancorp for $19.7 million in cash last October, adding six North Shore branches to its existing 20-branch franchise.

In April, Brookline struck a much larger deal to purchase Bancorp Rhode Island for $234 million in cash and stock. The Rhode Island transaction, which has not closed, will add 17 more branches and Brookline will grow to $4.7 billion in assets when the sale is completed.

Perrault said the new space in the Back Bay will help the bank organize functions to support its growing banking operations.

“We’ve pretty dramatically changed the company,’’ he said. “This is a logical next step. It will serve our needs a lot better. But we’re working now on what should be in the Clarendon building.’’

Steven Syre can be reached at syre@globe.com.