Creative projects give new life to vintage properties. Why go through the trouble and expense of transforming obsolete buildings for the 21st century, rather than starting from scratch?
Today’s developers are finding a host of reasons. Some mature, densely developed markets offer precious little land for new construction. Others present an opportunity to reinvigorate an underachieving zone between the city and its business-magnet suburbs. Then there are the abandoned factories within a stone’s throw of major roads and rail lines, and the attractively located suburban office complexes sitting vacant.
That last scenario was the story when Somerset Development set its sights on the former Bell Labs campus in its hometown of Holmdel, N.J. Unused since 2007, the 2 million-square-foot, 472-acre property had been well maintained by its owner, Alcatel-Lucent.
Early in the process, Somerset faced the challenge of winning support from residents and officials for its $200 million plan to convert the iconic Eero Saarinen edifice to a mixed-use complex and dedicate part of the site to housing.
Somerset was committed to honoring Saarinen’s vision and won historic designation for the property, explained Ralph Zucker, the firm’s president. Upgrades were necessary in order for the property to maximize appeal to prospective tenants. Somerset purchased “miles and miles and miles of glass” to add windows to the four interior buildings enclosed by a mirrored exterior, and renovated the pedestrian walkway that links those buildings.
Under its new name, Bell Works, the property will comprise offices, retail shops, restaurants, medical and professional services, day care, a sports complex and a gym. “We’ve created an urban vibe in a great suburban location,” Zucker said. “We’re giving the employees a reason to be here.”
Read more at Commercial Property Executive.