Developer filing plan for townhouses, apartments at Bell Works in Hoffman Estates

The redevelopment of Hoffman Estates' former AT&T headquarters into the mixed-use "metroburb" called Bell Works Chicagoland is about to embark on its next phase: a residential component featuring townhouses and apartments.

Ken Gold, vice president of acquisitions and development for New Jersey-based Somerset Development, said his firm is in the process of submitting to the village a formal plan for 189 townhouses and 361 apartments.

Somerset is likely to stick to its original intention of selling the land surrounding the main building on the 150-acre site to another developer, which would execute the plans for housing, Gold said.

He anticipates a 4- to 6-month review of the plans by Hoffman Estates officials. If the project stays on schedule, the first townhouses could be delivered in the summer of 2022, Gold said.

Somerset's original agreement with the village set the limit on the number of housing units at 550, though a slight variation was permitted in the ratio between types.

This phase of the project comes at a particularly strong time for the residential real estate market, Gold said.

"For us, the timing is great," he added. "The homebuilding market is the strongest it's been in the Chicago area in a decade. If anything, it's been strengthened (by the pandemic). People want options."

Though the pandemic created a slowdown in the market for office space, it occurred while Somerset was in the process of renovating and adapting the lobby and atrium space. The company also was constructing 32,462 square feet of speculative office space and 2,000 square feet of retail or restaurant space on the main floor of the central building at 2000 Center Drive.

But Gold notes that Somerset President and CEO Ralph Zucker has often said that COVID didn't create trends in the real estate market, it only expedited the ones his company already was facing.

"I don't think our strategy has changed very much at all," Gold added.

Hoffman Estates officials are looking forward to the addition of the residential phase of Bell Works.

"I think it's really an integral part of the whole Bell Works plan and we're happy to see it go forward," Mayor Bill McLeod said. "Not everyone wants a single-family home."

"That will really help drive the commercial," added Peter Gugliotta, the village's director of development services.

The fledgling development, inspired by Somerset's success with the original Bell Works redevelopment in Holmdel, New Jersey, is already home to a few commercial uses.

Last month, Somerset opened coLab, a 15,000-square-foot coworking space available for long-term or short-term leases.

Other early tenants include a Fairgrounds Craft Coffee and Tea kiosk and the offices of CPA Advisors Group, previously located in Rolling Meadows.

Gold said the gym at Bell Works is about to open and some further commercial tenants are likely to be announced soon.

The project is envisioned as a self-contained community including office and retail space, restaurants, entertainment venues and multifamily residential buildings.

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  Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod spoke at last month's grand opening of coLab, a coworking space at Bell Works in Hoffman Estates. Townhouses and apartments are soon expected to be added to the grounds of the former AT&T headquarters. Mark Welsh/
While the transformation of the main building on the former AT&T campus in Hoffman Estates into the Bell Works Chicagoland 'metroburb' has been underway for more than a year, townhouses and apartments are also soon expected to be added outside. Courtesy of Somerset Development, 2020
  The construction of 189 townhouses and 361 apartments has been proposed around the outside of the main office and commercial building of the Bell Works Chicagoland redevelopment of the former AT&T corporate campus in Hoffman Estates. Joe Lewnard/, 2018
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