The Metroburb: A Slice of Urbanity in Suburban New Jersey
“A metroburb is a metropolis in suburbia. It has a gravitational pull of it’s own. It has everything that you would find in a larger metropolis office, retail, residential hospitality, health, wellness, fitness – Main street USA. Whether you want to go to bank or the dry cleaners want or go hang out in an indoor urban park, you want to go out to an incredible rooftop and have a drink with friends, grab a cup of coffee. All these things coming together, there’s your slice of urbanity in a great suburban location.” – Ralph Zucker, president of Somerset Development and visionary behind Bell Works.
Fascinated by architects and builders who were re-imagining megalithic structures abandoned in the suburbs as corporations moved their operations back into the cities or overseas — Ralph Zucker spent more than 10 years imagining and lobbying for the opportunity to bring Bell Labs back to its former status as a thrumming, bustling center for innovation, community and inspiration for the world at-large.
Zucker and Master Architect Alex Gorlin were specifically inspired by a trip to Italy to see the Fiat Lingotto factory built in the 1920s and renovated by Renzo Piano in the 1980s. Piano’s successful transformation of the Fiat building into a multiuse center, which maintained the architectural character of the building would be the framework for the redevelopment of Bell Works as a live, work, play community.
“We all used to live in cities and then we filtered into suburbs, literally living in isolation,” Zucker. “We’d sit home and say I’m bored, I want to go somewhere. We craved the life of the city. Even as we want to be in the open spaces with nature around us, we want to be where people are.”