Bell Works in Holmdel — Courtesy: Somerset Development
By Joshua Burd
Investors Bank is providing a $70 million loan to Somerset Development for its landmark Bell Works project in Holmdel, under a financing deal negotiated by Meridian Capital Group.
The loan will help Somerset continue a high-profile project that has gained momentum in recent years, as it repositions the 2 million-square-foot former Bell Labs research campus. Sitting on 475 acres, the iconic complex has become home to a slew of technology firms that are anchoring the developer’s plans to create a walkable, mixed-use work environment in the suburbs.
In a news release Wednesday, Meridian said the three-year loan features a prime-based floating rate and full-term interest-only payments. Meridian Managing Director Shaya Ackerman and Vice President Eli Serebrowski, who are both based in the company’s New York City headquarters, negotiated the financing on behalf of Somerset Development.
“Somerset plans to create a unique asset that will serve as a benchmark for developers around the country,” Ackerman said in a prepared statement. “Many have found it impossible to find the best use for underutilized suburban office campuses, but Somerset recognized Bell Works’ full potential and designed a phenomenal improvement plan.”
“Meridian is proud to have structured a creative financing solution that will allow Somerset to achieve their goal and we are confident that Bell Works will completely transform the surrounding area and become a top-tier live-work-play hub for decades to come.”
The former Bell Labs, the home of groundbreaking research over more than four decades, became the largest vacant office space in the country when Alcatel-Lucent closed the property in 2007. Somerset acquired the site in 2013 following years of negotiations and public outreach with Holmdel residents, and the redevelopment project vaulted forward last year when it attracted several large office tenants.
Chief among them is iCIMS Inc., a recruiting software provider that will occupy roughly 350,000 square feet. Somerset is modernizing the campus while preserving its signature glass architecture and quarter-mile-long atrium.
Other plans for Bell Works include dining, entertainment and health and wellness components, along with educational facilities, a hotel and a conference center. Toll Bros. is also in the process of developing a portion of the site as single-family homes and townhomes.
“Our agreement with Meridian further affirms our vision for the transformation of this once-underutilized gem into a ‘metroburb’ — a metropolis in suburbia,” said Ralph Zucker, president of Somerset Development. “With approximately 75 percent of the building’s office space already under lease agreement, it’s clear that there is immense enthusiasm in the market for this type of reinvented suburban asset.”