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Making a Main Street: With the Holmdel library moving into Bell Works, Somerset Development continues to make itself a regional town center

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For Ralph Zucker of Somerset Development, the ceremonial ribbon cutting of the Holmdel Library held last week marks an important milestone in the redevelopment of Bell Works.

“It helps solidify our position as the center of, not just Holmdel, but Monmouth County,” Zucker said. “And it’s going to be a resource to the surrounding community. By bringing people in, it helps do what we set out to do, which is build a Main Street. Build a pedestrian street, a town center. We’ve been using the word ‘Metroburb’ ”

The Holmdel Library took 18,000 square feet of space at Bell Works’ atrium, and includes a learning center that is slated to open later this month.

“We see this new library and learning center as an environment that will enrich the lives of everyone who passes through its doors,” said Holmdel Mayor Gregory Buontempo. “In many ways, opening the Library at Bell Works represents a great opportunity for Holmdel residents, for our youth and for anyone aspiring to create, explore and innovate—values which are deeply rooted in the building’s esteemed history and integral to its vision for the future.”

Bell Works tenants, according to a news release, will receive guest passes to the library. And residents of Holmdel will receive borrowing privileges.

“We always want Bell Works to be a place where people come to live their daily lives,” said Zucker, the president of Somerset Development. “By having the library here, it helps solidify Bell Works’ place as the center of the surrounding community.”

Zucker said the idea of installing the library at Bell Works comes after many years of not only negotiating with the town, but even convincing it that knocking down the building was not in its best interest.

“We started the approval process in 2008, and we finished in 2013,” he said. “During that time, the conversation evolved until the community realized what a great resource this could be. We did a ‘Town Center for one night’ in 2009 and we invited the community in. People began to realize that this could be a great place and we shared our plans to develop their plans better, and it became clear to the community that this would become the Main Street for the surrounding communities.”

“The retailers are focused on being a part of the community, too,” he said.

The developer said he also saw opportunity to work with the town, when realizing that the Holmdel Library was located in the basement of the town hall.

Somerset then negotiated a 30-year, rent-free agreement with the library for its relocation.

The addition of the library to the campus, as well as other office and more retailers, has continued to increase activity at the building, according to Zucker.

Bell Works’ retail component has reached 30 percent leased with seven eateries and a health and beauty retailer having recently signed space. Somerset Development expects Bell Works to reach at least 85 percent leased on the project’s office component by the end of the year. As it stands, office leasing at Bell Works has reached 75 percent, but the developer plans to announce several other new leases by year’s end.

“We’ve always said that Bell Works as a metroburb is a place where people come to work, they come to live, they come to stay and they also come to eat and shop, and they come to the library,” Zucker said. “Everybody benefits from everybody.”

iCIMS is slated to move into the facility in the coming months. The talent acquisition firm will join WorkWave, Guardian Life Insurance, Acacia Communication, McCann Systeam and NVIDIA Corporation, to name a few, at Bell Works.

The development firm said it expects to open its on-campus conference center by Q2 2018 and said it plans for the hospitality component to be open in over two years. 

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Mario Marroquin

Mario Marroquin

Mario Marroquin covers real estate. A native of El Salvador, Mario is bilingual in English and Spanish. He graduated from Penn State University and worked in Pennsylvania before moving to New Jersey. His email is mariom@njbiz.com.

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