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Somerset Inks Largest Lease So Far For Bell Works Chicagoland ‘Metroburb’

Elgin-based Heritage-Crystal Clean will move its national headquarters to Bell Works Chicagoland in the development’s largest leasing win to date.

The publicly traded environmental services firm said Monday it would lease 39K SF at the Hoffman Estates “metroburb,” a 150-acre former AT&T corporate campus being revived by New Jersey developer Somerset Development. 

Bell Works Chicagoland

When the new headquarters opens in August, Heritage-Crystal Clean’s 180 employees will occupy 32K SF on the building’s third floor, plus an additional 7K SF on an adjacent quadrant. The firm signed an 11-year lease for the new office space, which will be designed by Nelson Worldwide.

Somerset cast the news as a major win in its effort to remake Bell Works as a mixed-use destination amid record-high vacancy in the Chicago suburban office market. Vacancy in the suburbs climbed to 27.1% at the end of March, per JLL, up from 26.9% at the beginning of the year. Suburban vacancy has increased for five straight quarters and has spent a year above its Great Recession peak of 25.4%.

“The continued interest we’re seeing for our thoughtfully designed spaces is a testament to the needs and priorities of today’s workforce,” Somerset President Ralph Zucker said in a release. “Companies are proactively seeking environments that not only enable their teams to flourish, work collaboratively, and think creatively, but also reflect the core values of their business.”

Somerset built its first so-called metroburb, Bell Works, in Holmdel, New Jersey, transforming the former 2M SF campus of Bell Labs into a center of commerce, business and entertainment. It took on the 1.6M SF Chicago-area project in 2019, with similar plans to transform it into a “metropolis in suburbia.” 

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic slowed both construction and office leasing, though the pace has picked up in recent months. Platinum Home Mortgage signed a 22K SF long-term lease in 2021. More recently, Headline Solar signed on for more than 30K SF, and a boutique accounting firm, an equity crowdfunding company and a commercial mosquito control company have also opened offices. 

Bell Works Chicagoland is also home to coworking provider coLab, which opened a 15K SF office in April, and 60K SF of ground-floor retail and restaurants.