Plans to safely reopen the 2 million-square-foot Bell Works complex in Holmdel include thermal scanning procedures, touchless technology integration, new signage and updated interior design. — Courtesy: Somerset Development
By Joshua Burd
Somerset Development has unveiled its plan to reopen its flagship Bell Works complex in Holmdel, providing a roadmap for office and retail tenants that were forced to leave as the COVID-19 crisis escalated in early spring.
The developer on Friday detailed a series of steps such as thermal scanning procedures, touchless technology integration, new signage and updated interior design at the 2 million-square-foot campus on Crawfords Corner Road, the iconic former home of Bell Labs. It has rolled out the measures under the guidance of Hackensack Meridian Health’s Reopening America Assist Program, a recently established framework by the state’s largest hospital network.
“The Bell Works Metroburb has evolved into a cultural heartbeat for the region. We understood the building’s importance to the community, as well as our responsibility to provide our businesses with a safe and secure environment in line with government guidelines,” said Robert Feinberg, director of operations of Somerset Development. “Under the expert guidance of Hackensack Meridian Health and the tireless efforts of the Bell Works staff and design team, we’re proud to once again open our doors to tenants and guests.”
In a news release, Somerset said it was using new Dahua Thermal scanners that will detect fever-level temperatures in guests as they enter Bell Works, allowing them to efficiently pass the scanner without having to stop if they are registering normal temperatures. Hackensack Meridian Health also supplied patient care technicians, or PCTs, for temperature screening assistance and will continue to provide weekly scientific updates as well as policy and procedure reviews.
Additional safety measures — implemented and overseen by the expert Bell Works’ operational team including Senior Property Manager Pat Garofalo and Head of Tenant Services Brian Anderson — include increased fresh air flow and upgraded air filters, installation of additional hand sanitizer stations with touchless receptacles along the corridors and implementation of new ‘wave to open’ entry and bathroom doors. The developer also said all staff, security and maintenance personnel have undergone extensive training in order to reduce the risk for disease transmission, including thermal scanning procedures and protocols in the event a tenant or visitor is found to have an elevated temperature.
“Our team was impressed with Bell Works’ comprehensive reopening plan and appreciated the opportunity to see first-hand how the plan translates into reality,” said Michael Geiger, Hackensack Meridian Health vice president overseeing the Reopening America Program. “So much of what Bell Works has implemented is on target with regulatory and governmental guidelines, mandates and industry best practices, including measures geared towards improving tenant and visitor circulation through the building, and the implementation of thermal scanning procedures will help identify individuals who can potentially spread infection.”
More than a decade in the making, the Bell Works concept has brought new life to the former Bell Labs research and development campus, a landmark, glass-enclosed building that hosted groundbreaking research over more than 40 years. It became the largest vacant office space in the country when Alcatel-Lucent shuttered the property in 2007, but Somerset has since repositioned the site by attracting a host of office and retail tenants and creating a walkable, downtown-style environment inside the complex.
With the pandemic escalating in New Jersey, the firm took steps to shut down Bell Works starting in mid-March after Gov. Phil Murphy declared a public health emergency in the state. The complex officially went dark on March 21 when Murphy ordered millions of state residents to stay home and closed all non-essential businesses.
In reopening the space, Somerset has also made interior design and layout enhancements led by Bell Works Creative Director Paola Zamudio and her team at NPZ Style+Décor. They include additional furniture from Moroso, Hay and Blue Dot spaced throughout the atrium and outdoor roof deck to meet social distancing mandates, wayfinding graphics that direct and guide foot traffic and new signage educating tenants and guests on COVID-19 signs, symptoms, etiquette and precautionary measures.
“We are committed to ensuring that we exceed the highest standards of health, wellness and quality of life as we welcome back our tenants, their employees and visitors from throughout the region,” Garofalo said.
Aside from aligning with Hackensack Meridian’s Reopening America Assist Program, the Bell Works team employed a multi-tiered reopening strategy that included physical design changes and operational protocol upgrades, the news release said. Its new “Stop the Spread” initiative includes new house rules, including:
- Face masks required for entry and at all times in all indoor common areas
- No pets allowed until further notice
- Sanitize laptops, phones, bags, etc.
- Frequent hand washing, for 20 seconds, is highly recommended
- Do not handle coins or paper money
- Practice social distancing
- If you feel sick, stay home