A rendering of Bell Works in Hoffman Estates, Illinois — Courtesy: Somerset Development
By Joshua Burd
Riding the success of its Bell Works project — the adaptive reuse of the landmark Bell Labs campus in Holmdel — Somerset Development is taking its show on the road.
The real estate firm announced Thursday that it has closed on its acquisition of a 150-acre property in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. Located about 30 miles outside Chicago, the site is home to a three-building, 1.65 million-square-foot former AT&T campus, where Somerset is now planning to create the same type of self-contained, mixed-use environment in suburbia that exists at the 2 million-square-foot Bell Works property in New Jersey.
The acquisition terms were not disclosed, although Somerset noted that it partnered with Triangle Capital Group on the transaction.
“Today marks an important milestone for Bell Works, and another huge step toward the creation of Chicagoland’s first metroburb,” said Ralph Zucker, CEO and president of Somerset Development. “This property serves as an ideal canvas for the kind of dynamic, urban-inspired destination we have successfully created at the original Bell Works. We are tremendously thankful to the Village of Hoffman Estates for believing in our vision and look forward to working together to revive this property and usher in a new era of prosperity for this community.”
Unanimously approved by local officials in January, the roughly $200 million redevelopment plans call for 1.2 million square feet of office space, 60,000 square feet of conference facilities, storage and amenities and 60,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space. The Hoffman Estates campus has been vacant since 2016, but Somerset will now aim to create a walkable, downtown-style centerpiece for the Chicago suburb.
In doing so, the firm will draw on its experience in Holmdel, where it has transformed the iconic Bell Labs research campus over more than five years into a first-of-its-kind ecosystem of offices, shops, dining, event space, hospitality and community resources. The site today is home to thousands of daily workers, visitors and retail patrons, bringing new life to what was once the nation’s largest vacant office building after Bell Labs shut down operations around 2007.
Taconic Capital Advisors provided acquisition financing and a future funding facility for predevelopment costs for Bell Works in Hoffman Estates, according to a news release. Colliers International will serve as exclusive broker for Somerset Development.
“Colliers is extremely excited to be working with Somerset on the development of the Bell Works project in Hoffman Estates,” Colliers Principal Steve Kling said. “Bell Works is much more than a live, work, play marketing campaign — it is a revolutionary project that hits a bullseye on everything the modern employer is looking for. The creation of a new metroburb will bring new life and energy to this campus, and we are honored to be a part of that process.”