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Bell Labs Holmdel Complex

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Bell Labs Holmdel Redevelopment – When the Past Becomes the Future – John Boyd – Bell Labs

I have been focused recently in the potential redevelopment of a historic building. He’s a partner in a project management firm that has been tasked to find the highest and best use for the once vibrant facility and surrounding property. The facility I’m talking about is the former Bell Laboratory Facility in Holmdel, New Jersey. Before I go into my story I thought a history lesson is in order. Bell Labs Before it’s Closing in 2007. Today it is an empty facility with more than 1.7 million square feet of space under roof; sitting in the middle of over 472 acres of land in one of the more desirable locations in New Jersey to live. Pretty interesting history I thought. When we were asked to investigate and prepare reports on its highest best use, I put on my engineering and project developer hat and began studying every piece of information we could come up with. For the last month I along with our staff have been learning as much as possible about the facility and Holmdel. We are impressed on both professional and personal levels and soon will be unveiling our findings and thoughts on the highest and best use of the property as we have been contracted to do. The Past Becomes the Future. I won’t give any clues at this juncture of our recommendations but will instead tell you of a kind of metamorphosis of sorts. People that know me know that I have an “out of the box” thinking mentality and even though I have an engineering background I look past the obvious and norm. That thinking has caused me to pen twelve novels, all fiction but based in enough fact I hope that make the stories believable. I write novels that fall into the international thriller genre and enjoy doing so as much as I enjoy the project management field. I guess I have not figured out how to do just one or the other, kind of a high class problem until now. There has been a story floating in my head for some time that involved science and technology and religious faith. I haven’t written the story for many reasons mainly searching for the perfect venue to base the story in until now. I have finally found a way to follow both my passions at the same time with Bell Labs as the catalyst. During my study of the history of the Bell Labs facility I have uncovered a discovery never announced to the public. It is that discovery which is the basis for my upcoming novel. No I won’t let the cat out of the bag yet about the story but will promise to do so in the coming weeks. I will complete this novel different than my others by including others in the process. The untold scientific discovery at Bell Labs will shake our thinking and beliefs as we know them, but will change our lives and the lives of others that follow. That I will guarantee, Sincerely, John Boyd.

Bell Labs Holmdel Complex

Aerial ViewAT&T_Holmdel-wide-cropped (2)

The Bell Labs Holmdel Complex, in Holmdel Township, New Jersey, United States, functioned for forty-four years as a research and development facility, initially for the Bell System. The centerpiece of the campus is an Eero Saarinen designed structure that served as the home to over 6,000 engineers and researchers. This modernist building, dubbed “The Biggest Mirror Ever” by Architectural Forum, due to its mirror box exterior, was the site of at least one Nobel Prize discovery, the laser coolingwork of Steven Chu. The building has undergone renovations into a multi-purpose living and working space, dubbed Bell Works by its redevelopers, and as of 2016, the former Bell Labs complex has been experiencing a renaissance as a business incubator for high-tech startup companies.

History

240px-Bell_Labs_HolmdelAerial view of AT&T Holmdel site

Before the present building, the site was used by Bell Telephone Laboratories for research. Karl Guthe Jansky invented radio astronomy there, and a monument was placed at the former location (40°21′54.5″N 74°09′48.9″W) of the antenna almost seventy years later in 1998. The monument is a stylized sculpture of the antenna and is oriented as Jansky’s antenna was at 7:10 p.m. on September 16, 1932, at a moment of maximum signal caused by alignment with the center of our galaxy in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius.

In 1957, the Bell Telephone Company began to plan a research laboratory in Holmdel Township in Central New Jersey. Constructed between 1959 and 1962, this complex was one of the final projects of Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen before his death in 1961. Used as a research and development complex, it served the needs of the Bell Laboratories division of Bell Telephone, later known as AT&T, Lucent, and Alcatel-Lucent. Basic research, applied hardware development, and software development occurred in the building.

The building’s distinctive features, including its mirror-like appearance, led to recognition as the Laboratory of the Year by R&D in 1967.

The building was expanded in 1966 and 1982 to its final size of two million square feet of office and laboratory space. Despite these expansions, the original curtain wall design remained intact, as did the unique layout of the site, which included a large elliptical master plan and country-road like approach. Over its active life-span, the facility and its layout were studied in universities as models of modernist architecture. Internally, the building is divided into four pavilions of labs and offices, each separated from the others by an cross-shaped atrium. The internal pavilions are linked via sky-bridges and perimeter walkway.

Also of note is the water tower on the complex, which was designed to look like the then-new transistor and is still in usable condition more than 40 years after its construction.

Post Alcatel-Lucent – Bell Works

120px-Bell_Labs_Holmdel,_NJBell Labs Holmdel, NJ April 2010 Lawrence Aberle

In 2006, Alcatel-Lucent contracted to sell the facility to Preferred Real Estate Investments in the process of restructuring the company’s research efforts. Despite initial plans to maintain the original buildings and keep the complex as a corporate office park, economic developments later resulted in Preferred seeking to re-zone as residential property. 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. 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. Working with the community, ideas for changes such as a university center or recreational complex, in portions of the former facility are under consideration.

The Preferred transaction did not close and on May 17, 2012 Holmdel Township declared the site as an “Area in Need of Redevelopment” and adopted a Redevelopment Plan for the property that included various adaptive reuses of the main building and the construction of up to 40 single family homes and 185 age-restricted townhouses outside the main ring road surrounding the building. The Redevelopment Plan is available on the Township’s website. The complex is currently under contract to Somerset Development LLC. Somerset has provided concept plans for the redevelopment of the complex in accordance with the Redevelopment Plan and is in discussions with Township officials concerning the details of those plans. Somerset’s Redevelopment Concepts are available online and on the Township’s website.

Bell_Labs_water_tower_NJ1 (3)“Transistor” water tower in 2016

In Sep 2013, it was announced that the property was purchased by Somerset Development Corp for $27 million for a redevelopment project planned to include a health and wellness center, skilled nursing facility and assisted living center, a hotel, restaurants and shopping, spa, office spaces and a 20,000-square-foot public library. Recreational space and luxury homes were planned for the surrounding land. Toll Brothers was slated to be the residential developer the project. Several office tenants have moved into the Bell Works building, and there is a cafe now open in the main lobby. In April 2017 Guardian Life Insurance Company announced plans to move several hundred employees to the facility.

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