From Research Facility To Metroburb: Bell Works New Jersey, 10 Years Later
For 44 years, the Bell Labs Holmdel Complex in Holmdel Township, New Jersey, served as a leading research and development facility and was most notably the site of a Nobel Prize-winning discovery. The property, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was initially home to Bell System and later Bell Labs before becoming the headquarters for AT&T.
When it came time for the site to be reimagined into a new space, it was important to the community to find a developer that could create something that would benefit the local economy while preserving the sense of community and collaboration that made the property special.
In 2013, the Inspired by Somerset Development team purchased the property and began the transformation of the 2M SF campus into a tech-oriented mixed-use development with modern workspaces, retail, wellness, arts, hospitality, culture and more. Inspired did all this while preserving many of the campus’s original features, including restoring the lobby and auditorium and turning the lower-level cafeteria into a grand ballroom while preserving the original flooring.
Today, the reimagined Bell Works is more than 95% occupied by a mix of Fortune 500 companies and early stage startups. In September, Inspired celebrated the 10th anniversary of its purchase.
“When we walked into the former Bell Labs, we knew it was a challenge,” Inspired by Somerset Development CEO and founder Ralph Zucker said. “Through our partnership with community leaders and stakeholders, we were able to transform what was once the largest vacant office building in the United States into what is now one of the most iconic properties and successful redevelopments in the country.”
Inspired describes Bell Works as a “metroburb,” a little metropolis in suburbia. Along with the many companies, shops and restaurants that call Bell Works home, the campus includes a public library, a Montessori School and an indoor pedestrian street known as The Block. Here, visitors can find a café, hair salon, wellness studios, flower shop, clothing stores, various eateries and a weekly pop-up farmers and makers market called Bell Works Fresh.
Michael Salvatore, CEO of Northeast Financial Network, a Bell Works office tenant, said his company was drawn to the turnkey nature of the campus and has appreciated that Bell Works gives his team the flexibility to grow.
“When searching for a modern, more spacious location for our headquarters, Bell Works in Holmdel stood out above the rest,” Salvatore said. “This burgeoning, state-of-the-art mixed-use complex is unlike anything else. We had already utilized Bell Works' turnkey ‘ready-to-wear’ space, and when the time was right, we were able to make the seamless shift into a larger campus suite. This move will allow us to expand our business offerings and will create the perfect environment that will inspire creativity and allow our employees to thrive.”
Inside Bell Works’ Transformation
The roof of the ballroom at Bell Works was a blank slate waiting to be activated. Over the years, NPZ Studio+ transformed this once-vacant space into a tropical oasis that brings an urban vibe to suburban New Jersey. Today, the roof deck at Bell Works is home to Bar Bella, a rooftop bar with lush plants, striped umbrellas, colorful Acapulco chairs, live music and lounge seating. NPZ Studio+ created a destination within a destination.
“Bar Bella is a destination to enjoy seasonal drinks with locally sourced ingredients, vibey music and a beautiful atmosphere,” said Paola Zamudio, founder of NPZ Studio+ and creative director at Bell Works. “With various live performances and collaborations, we have curated a unique experience for the Bell Works community and beyond — a hidden oasis right in the heart of Holmdel. Whether you are in the mood for a refreshing spritz on a hot summer day or a cozy hot toddy during the chilly months, Bar Bella has what you need to enjoy an evening surrounded by nature, within the architectural masterpiece that is Bell Works.”
But the weekly pop-up at Bar Bella is just one example of the type of community events Bell Works hosts. On any given day, locals can attend anything from workshops to networking events and artist talks. Zucker said that over the past year, more than 2 million community members walked through the metroburb’s doors to participate in these community events.
Holmdel Township Mayor Domenico "D.J." Luccarelli said the town is proud of Bell Works and its positive impact on the community.
“It gives us great pride that Bell Works, the re-imagination of the historic former Bell Labs building, has become a major economic success and bustling hub for our community that attracts thousands to the area,” he said. “Through Bell Works, Holmdel has become a focal point in New Jersey, attracting a wide array of businesses and setting the stage for hundreds of local events, from our weekly farmers market to fireworks displays and mental health talks.”
He added that the project has had a tremendous impact not only on Holmdel but also on a much larger scale by showing what is possible through careful planning, innovative design and thoughtful development.
Creating a space that would inspire the community was a top priority for Inspired, Zucker said.
“We are steadfast in our belief that if you build places where people can be inspired at work, that becomes the ultimate amenity,” he said. “One of the aspects of this project that I’m most proud of is the eclectic energy and vibrancy that we’ve created that has made Bell Works a one-of-a-kind destination.”
To learn more about Bell Works or to view available space, please visit LoopNet.
This article was produced in collaboration between Studio B and Inspired by Somerset Development. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.
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