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Could Abandoned Offices Be The New Downtown?

One developer is getting innovative and turning to abandoned suburban offices as a way to create walkable community hubs.

Could Abandoned Offices Be The New Downtown?

Bell Labs, which was once a bustling office building in the suburban area of Holmdel, New Jersey, turned into a source of debate in the community after it was abandoned in 2007. While some wanted to remove the massive structure to create new housing, others were determined to keep it in place, Fast Company reports.

The 2M SF building remained untouched until Somerset Development purchased the property in 2013 for $27M with plans to build an indoor “metroburb” — a metro-like area within a suburb.

Now, the once-empty building is home to multiple corporations, including Santandar Bank and iCIMS, in addition to amenities such as a food hall on the main floor and a conference center, ballroom, library, day care, fitness studio and salon in the basement. A hotel is planned for the roof of the building while a park with trees and benches will soon be located in the right wing of the structure, according to Fast Company.

Though the Bell Labs project is still lacking housing and transit — two key ingredients of a metro area — the development is part of a new movement called "new urbanism," which shuns urban sprawl in exchange for walkable, amenity-rich communities.

Bell Labs owner Somerset said the lack of housing and transit accessibility will be addressed through the integration of shuttle buses and shared autonomous vehicle services, making it a true urban hub nestled amid a suburban community.