Developer revamping old AT&T campus lands first long-term office tenant

The deal is a historic rental moment for Somerset Development, the Holmdel, New Jersey-based real estate company that purchased the abandoned campus in 2019 with a plan to spend $ 200 million to turn it into a use destination. mixed where people would work, shop, dine and ultimately live. Finding businesses that embrace this vision is one of the most daunting obstacles to transforming one of the region’s tallest buildings left behind over the past decade by tenant businesses.

Somerset has so far refurbished part of the obsolete main office building and signed a handful of tenants for small, short-term leases in pre-built offices, but PHMC is the first company to plant its flag in the building for the long term. .

PHMC President and CEO Bill Giambrone said Bell Works was the boldest option of the many offices being considered in the northwest suburbs as his lease expired at 2200 Hicks Road in Rolling Meadows, where his company has been based since its inception in 1993.

“We looked at a variety of spaces and this one caught my attention and that of the staff because it is so unique,” ​​he said, noting the impressive renovations Somerset has done at the interior of the building and its 31,000 square foot fitness center.

Being the first major adopter of a building to try and berate itself as an office destination is a risk, but “we hope we got into something early on that is going to be great,” Giambrone said. “We think it will work.”

The office footprint at Hoffman Estates will be slightly smaller than the approximately 30,000 square feet that PHMC occupies today at Rolling Meadows, a product of more of its staff planning to work from home more frequently even afterward. the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, Giambrone said. But he also stressed the importance of face-to-face interaction between some of his employees and the ability to meet face-to-face with clients who are applying for mortgages or making home purchases.

“It’s nice to just go to a meeting and brainstorm and learn body language,” he said.

Somerset CEO Ralph Zucker, who calls Bell Works Chicagoland a “metroburb” as a suburban urban hub, said in a statement that PHMC’s lease is an “incredible milestone” as the property “begins to grow. come to life with its own energy. “

Other small tenants who have rented a ready-to-move-in space include accounting firm CPA Advisors Group, pest control firm Mosquito Hunters and crowdfunding firm The Next Unicorn. Fairgrounds Craft Coffee & Tea also signed an agreement to open a small boutique in the building.

Bell Works Chicagoland is inspired by Bell Works New Jersey, a former Bell Labs research campus in Holmdel that Somerset bought in 2013 and leased with over a million square feet of tenants.

While generating some momentum for office leasing, Somerset is also trying to revive residential plans for the campus amid a suburban home buying spree during the COVID-19 pandemic. Zucker confirmed in May that his company was under contract to sell 15 acres in the northeast corner of the campus to an undisclosed townhouse developer who aims to develop 189 units. Somerset is also seeking buyers to acquire other parts of the land where they could develop a total of 361 apartments.

Brokers from Colliers International and the Garibaldi Group oversee the rental at Bell Works Chicagoland. Colliers director Jason Simon represented PHMC in its lease negotiations.

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