'Metroburb' concept for AT&T campus gets OK from Hoffman Estates panel

This story has been updated to correctly identify comments made by Plan Commissioner Lenard Henderson.

Hoffman Estates planning and zoning commissioners Wednesday unanimously recommended approval of a concept plan to redevelop the former AT&T campus into a self-contained community of businesses and residences to be called “City Works.”

“Thank you for bringing something new and exciting to Hoffman Estates,” Commissioner Sohita Patel said, demonstrating the enthusiasm reflected in most of her colleagues' comments.

Fellow Commissioner Lenard Henderson was on board as well once he established that seniors wouldn't be excluded from the development pitched largely at millennials, as well as that the island on the property where waterfowl nest wouldn't be disturbed.

“I'm very concerned on making sure it stays beautiful,” he said of the 150-acre site.

Though the village board is expected to approve the concept plan and possibly a development agreement with New Jersey-based Somerset Development on May 14, the greater level of detail required for final approval of even the earliest office components is likely six months away.

Village officials announced in mid-April that they were in talks with representatives of Somerset, who had recognized an opportunity to apply the lessons learned on their conversion of the 2 million-square-foot former Bell Labs building in Holmdel, New Jersey, into the mixed-use Bell Works project to the 1.6 million-square-foot AT&T buildings.

The key similarity apart from their overall sizes is the large central atriums both properties have, Somerset Development President Ralph Zucker said.

“All of our retail is facing that center court,” he said of Bell Works. “It's really a vibrant street scene ... literally a small downtown.”

Somerset's concept plan proposes using the existing AT&T buildings for 1.2 million square feet of offices, 60,000 square feet of retail shops and 80,000 square feet of conference space, while new construction would add 375 apartments, 175 townhouse units and possibly a 200-room hotel.

Zucker said the term he coined for this concept at Bell Works — “Metroburb” — is one he hopes will become generally used among other developers.

Hoffman Estates village board members tentatively plan to review a proposed development agreement with Somerset at their planning, building & zoning committee meeting Monday, May 7, enabling them to vote on its approval at the same May 14 meeting as the concept plan.

Hoffman Estates talking with New Jersey developer about AT&T campus

Offices, shops, apartments, hotel in plan for former AT&T campus

The ongoing transformation of the former 2-million-square-foot Bell Labs building in Holmdel, New Jersey into a commercial and residential community called Bell Works is the model for Somerset Development's concept plan for the redevelopment of the 1.6-million-square-foot former AT&T campus in Hoffman Estates. Courtesy of Somerset Development
  Hoffman Estates planning and zoning commissioners Wednesday recommended acceptance of New Jersey-based Somerset Development's proposed concept plan for the redevelopment of the former AT&T campus into a mixture of residential and commercial uses collectively called "City Works." Mark Welsh/, 2013
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