Bell Labs Holmdel Complex

Coordinates: 40°21′54″N 74°10′2″W / 40.36500°N 74.16722°W / 40.36500; -74.16722
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Bell Works
Aerial view
General information
Architectural styleMid-Century Modern
LocationHolmdel Township, New Jersey, U.S.
Address101 Crawfords Corner Road, Holmdel, New Jersey[1]
Coordinates40°21′54″N 74°10′2″W / 40.36500°N 74.16722°W / 40.36500; -74.16722
Construction started1959[2]
OwnerSomerset Development d/b/a Bell Works
Technical details
Floor count6
Floor area2,000,000 square feet (190,000 m2)[4]
Grounds472.69 acres (1.9129 km2)[5]
Design and construction
Architect(s)Eero Saarinen[6]
Other designersSasaki, Walker & Associates[7]
Awards and prizes1967 Laboratory of the year
Bell Laboratories-Holmdel
Bell Labs Holmdel Complex is located in Monmouth County, New Jersey
Bell Labs Holmdel Complex
Bell Labs Holmdel Complex is located in New Jersey
Bell Labs Holmdel Complex
Bell Labs Holmdel Complex is located in the United States
Bell Labs Holmdel Complex
NRHP reference No.16000223[8]
NJRHP No.4771[9]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPJune 26, 2017
Designated NJRHPMarch 8, 2016

The Bell Labs Holmdel Complex, in Holmdel Township, Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States of America, functioned for 44 years as a research and development facility, initially for the Bell System and later Bell Labs.[3] The centerpiece of the campus is an Eero Saarinen–designed structure that served as the home to over 6,000 engineers and researchers.[4] This modernist building, dubbed "The Biggest Mirror Ever" by Architectural Forum, due to its mirror box exterior, was the site of a Nobel Prize discovery, the laser cooling work of Steven Chu.[1][10]

The building has undergone renovations into a multi-purpose living and working space, dubbed Bell Works by its redevelopers. Since 2013 it has been operated by Somerset Development, who redeveloped the building into a mixed-use office for high-tech startup companies.[11] The complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2017.[9]


In 2006, Alcatel-Lucent contracted to sell the 2 million-square-foot facility to Preferred Real Estate Investments, during the process of restructuring the company's research efforts.[10] Despite initial plans to maintain the original buildings and keep the six-story complex as a corporate office park, Preferred later sought to rezone it as residential property.[12][13][14][15] As a result, the complex was added to The Cultural Landscape Foundation's list of 10 Most Endangered Historic Sites in New Jersey in May 2007.[1] Additionally, action led to the creation of a citizen's group, Preserving Holmdel, by former Bell employees, to lobby for keeping the complex as it was when in use as a laboratory.[16] A report by Preservation New Jersey contemplated changes to the property, including ideas such as a university center, recreational complex, and a healthcare facility.[17]

The transaction with Preferred Real Estate Investments did not close, and on May 17, 2012 Holmdel Township declared the site as an "Area in Need of Redevelopment"[18] and adopted a redevelopment plan for the property that included various adaptive reuses of the main building, the construction of up to 40 single-family homes, and 185 age-restricted townhomes outside the main ring road surrounding the building. The plan was based on a concept proposed by Inspired by Somerset Development (then Somerset Development).[19]

In September 2013, the property was officially purchased by Inspired by Somerset Development – which submitted a concept plan in accordance with Holmdel Township’s redevelopment plan for $27 million.[20] Inspired by Somerset Development proposed an adaptive reuse project that included offices, a health and wellness center, restaurants, shopping, a spa, and a 20,000-square-foot public library. Recreational space and luxury homes were planned for the surrounding land; national homebuilder Toll Brothers was slated to be the residential developer of the project.

Architect Alexander Gorlin served as the master architect for the projects and introduced new designs, which included[21] opening up the laboratory spaces with atrium light by replacing Saarinen's metal panels with glass, redesigning the two mammoth 1,000-by-100-foot atria floors, and replacing skylights with transparent photovoltaic panels. As a result of these design improvements, the building won numerous design and architecture awards, including the Docomomo US Modernism in America Award,[22] Starnet Commercial Flooring Design Award,[23] and the Azure Awards, Architecture Adaptive Re-Use category.[24]

Bell Labs to Bell Works[edit]

In 2013, Inspired by Somerset Development officially secured ownership of the Bell Labs site and signed a deal with Toll Brothers to sell 103 acres of land to develop 225 homes on a portion of the property between the main building and Crawfords Corner Road while retaining the entirety of the Eero Saarinen-designed structure (Bacevice et al., 2022). This deal with Toll Brothers helped to provide the capital for Inspired by Somerset Development to pursue its New Urbanism-inspired redevelopment plan at Bell Labs. The plan aimed to transform the site from office-lab to a space that would provide the Holmdel Township community–and other nearby residents–with access to the multitude of benefits traditionally associated with an urban environment (shops, dining, retail, library, offices, etc.) while preserving the structure of an iconic piece of mid-twentieth-century architecture.[25]

Finding that these redevelopment plans satisfied its demands for residential zoning and preservation standards for the property, Holmdel Township officially approved Somerset Development to move forward with the redevelopment of Bell Labs in August 2013[26] The project was a massive undertaking: The lobby was overgrown with plants and the quarter mile-long roof leaked. Ralph Zucker, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Inspired by Somerset Development, assembled an ambitious team of architects, designers, and marketers for the project. Among the team were Alexander Gorlin Architects, The Garibaldi Group, Co Op Brand Partners, and NPZ Style + Décor.

As the project began to crystallize, the civic relationship between Holmdel Township and Bell Works grew stronger, with then-mayor Eric Hines celebrating early construction milestones and leasing achievements. Mayor Hines went on record several times[27] celebrating the success of the project. Further strengthening the relationship between Bell Works and Holmdel Township was the approval of a 30-year lease agreement between Inspired by Somerset Development and the township in the amount of $0 for housing the Holmdel Township branch of the Monmouth County Library at Bell Works. This represented a significant increase in space for the library, which went from 3,000 square feet to 18,000 square feet.[28]

In July 2015, Bell Works signed its first lease with James Lavin Real Estate, which was set to rent 1,100 square feet[26] In May 2016, WorkWave signed a lease for more than 77,000 square feet, bringing in 185 employees to the space. Local startup iCIMS followed suit and rented 350,000 square feet to account for its expansion from 650 to 2,000 employees. Recognizing the convenience of Bell Works and its ability to inspire, office tenants sought a variety of spaces within the property, including CoLab, a furnished coworking space for meetings, events, and business functions.

Bell Works is often described as a “metroburb” — a phrase coined by Ralph Zucker.[29] According to the Bell Works website, a metroburb is “an urban hub. A little metropolis in suburbia… A large-scale mixed-use building, with great access, office, retail, entertainment, hospitality, residential, health, wellness, fitness, everything you would find in a metropolis but in a great suburban location."[30] Bell Works’ success as a proof of concept for Zucker’s metroburb was supported by its pioneering example of an entirely new workspace typology, one which used the scale of Bell Works to simulate the density of urban cityscapes within the office while providing a degree of flexibility and modularity that is difficult to achieve outside of a suburban environment.[31] As of 2019, more than 90 percent of the campus’ office space was leased—a testament to the success of the concept.

Today, Bell Works’ quarter-mile long atrium has been reimagined into a publicly accessible “pedestrian street'' complete with shops, restaurants, healthcare, community services, and more.[30] In addition to offering retail and office space, Bell Works hosts conferences and events, including the annual Fourth of July Fireworks, which attracts thousands of local residents. The building, which is open seven days a week, is home to public assets such as the Holmdel Library and Learning Center along with farmers’ markets and holiday celebrations. Bell Works has become a prestigious and iconic development, earning more than nine awards in design and leadership in just over a decade.

Bell Works Chicagoland[edit]

The success of Bell Works led to the launch of Inspired by Somerset Development’s $200 million development plan for Bell Works Chicagoland, a similar concept housed in the 1.65 million-square-foot space of the former AT&T campus in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. After touring the site in 2017, Mr. Zucker saw an opportunity to replicate the success of the metroburb at the campus, which was considered unsuitable for any single tenant due to its size. In 2018, Hoffman Estates rezoned the site for a mixed-use commercial property designation to accommodate Inspired by Somerset Development’s vision for a mixed-use hub and an on-site hotel, as well as apartments and townhomes to the east of the building.[32]

Bell Works Chicagoland welcomed its first corporate tenant —CPA Advisors Group, Inc.—to a 1,500-square-foot “ready-to-wear” office in the fall of 2021.[33] Since this initial agreement, leasing velocity at Bell Works Chicagoland has continued to build momentum with the addition of several agreements for corporate headquarters at the site, including Cambium Networks for 35,000 square feet,[34] Platinum Home Mortgage for 18,000 square feet,[35] Heritage Crystal Clean for 39,000 square feet[36] and Club Colors for 52,000 square feet.[37]



  1. ^ a b c Emrich, Ron (August 2008). "Bell Laboratories, Holmdel, New Jersey". The Cultural Landscape Foundation. Archived from the original on 6 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27.
  2. ^ "Big Research Unit Started". NYT. 1959-08-27. Archived from the original on 10 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27.
  3. ^ a b Ganapati, Priya (2008-08-28). "Once Mighty Bell Labs Leaves Behind Transistor, Laser, 6 Nobels". Wired. CondéNet. Archived from the original on 24 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27.
  4. ^ a b Martin, Antoinette (2006-06-14). "Pastoral Site of Historic Inventions Faces the End". NYT. Archived from the original on January 25, 2016. Retrieved 2008-09-27.
  5. ^ BellWorks_Redevelopment Plan - link triggers PDF download
  6. ^ "EERO SAARINEN, 51, ARCHITECT, IS DEAD; Versatile Designer Created Terminal for T.W.A. Here and Embassies for U.S. DISCIPLE OF HIS FATHER Received Many Awards-Worked With Mielziner on Lincoln Center Theater". NYT. 1961-09-02. Archived from the original on 10 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27.
  7. ^ Dunlap, David (2008-03-02). "The Office as Architectural Touchstone". NYT. Archived from the original on September 22, 2015. Retrieved 2008-09-27.
  8. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  9. ^ a b "New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places - Monmouth County" (PDF). New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection - Historic Preservation Office. February 12, 2018. p. 6.
  10. ^ a b Rensberger, Boyce (1972-02-20). "Where Science Grows Miracles". NYT. Archived from the original on 10 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27.
  11. ^ De Poto, Tom (September 16, 2013). "Bell Labs site's new owner outlines plans for next 'experiment' in Holmdel". North Jersey Media Group. Retrieved October 29, 2018.
  12. ^ Thompson, Sametta (2008-09-15). "Bell Labs site's future". Archived from the original on 2013-01-17. Retrieved 2008-09-27.
  13. ^ Personal story told by a Bell Works concierge.
  14. ^ "World's Largest Transistor, Holmdel, New Jersey". Retrieved 2022-02-25.
  15. ^ Caiazza, Tom (2006-09-06). "Bell Labs portion will be preserved in Holmdel". The Independent. Archived from the original on 6 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27.
  16. ^ "Former Bells Labs Site". Preferred Unlimited. 2007. Archived from the original on 3 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27.
  17. ^ Block, Ryan (2006-09-01). "Holmdel Bell Labs facility update: it stays!". Engadget. Archived from the original on 6 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-27.
  18. ^ Walker, Lawrence (April 22, 2017). "".
  19. ^ Martin, Antoinette (2008-05-04). "Ideas for Bell Labs' Future". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  20. ^ Cunningham, Cathy (2017-07-11). "Investors Bank Lends $70M on Historic Bell Works Redevelopment in NJ". Commercial Observer. Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  21. ^ "Bell Works by Alexander Gorlin Architects | 2020-02-01 | Architectural Record". Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  22. ^ "Bell Works". Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  23. ^ "Bell Works Wins Gold Corporate Starnet Design Award | FLOOR Trends & Installation". Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  24. ^ "AZ Awards 2021 Winner: Bell Works". AZ Awards. 2021-06-23. Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  25. ^ Bacevice, Peter; Ruddell, Darren; Duan, Leilei (2022). "Bell Works: Lessons from a Transformational Redevelopment". SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.4109273. ISSN 1556-5068.
  26. ^ a b Diamond, Michael L. "Bell Labs to Bell Works: How one man saved the historic site and made it a tech mecca". Asbury Park Press. Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  27. ^ Diamond, Michael L. "Former Bell Labs site signs first tenants". Asbury Park Press. Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  28. ^ Cervenka, Susanne. "Holmdel library touted as a center for collaboration". Asbury Park Press. Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  29. ^ "The Increasing Allure of the "Metroburb"". NewCities. 2020-06-05. Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  30. ^ a b "Bell Works | New Jersey | Explore". Work, Shop, Play | Inspired Real Estate. Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  31. ^ "Bell Works: A Ringing Success in Blended-use Redevelopment". 2022-12-02. Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  32. ^ "Hoffman Estates approves rezoning of AT&T site for redevelopment". Daily Herald. 2018-08-21. Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  33. ^ "Somerset Development announces first leases at Bell Works Chicagoland in Hoffman Estates – REJournals". Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  34. ^ Ecker, Danny (August 1, 2023). "".
  35. ^ Harlow, Kristin (2021-07-08). "Platinum Home Mortgage Corp. Joins Tenant Lineup at Bell Works Chicagoland". REBusinessOnline. Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  36. ^ "Elgin-based Heritage-Crystal Clean moving national HQ to Bell Works in Hoffman Estates". Daily Herald. 2022-05-16. Retrieved 2023-09-27.
  37. ^ "Bell Works Chicagoland signs Club Colors as new tenant". Chicago Tribune. 2022-07-12. Retrieved 2023-09-27.