The famous Bell Labs complex in Holmdel, New Jersey is due for a makeover into a mixed-used development:
Developer Somerset Development has tapped Alexander Gorlin Architects to convert the 1.9 million-square-foot facility into a contained island of retail, dining, residential, hotel, performance, and office space—providing new amenities, from a town library to an outdoor sports complex, for the sprawling suburban community. Two New Jersey–based firms, NK Architects and Joshua Zinder Architecture + Design, will also collaborate on the design of the interior tenant space.
“It is almost like the Romans have left the arena. How do you re-inhabit the coliseum? How do you inject new life in a space that is waiting for something to happen?” said Gorlin. “It symbolized America at its post-war peek in 1962.”
The colossal, quarter-mile-long atrium will be the cornerstone of the renovation. Gorlin imagines that this vast, open space will serve a similar function to that of the Armory, and host a variety of events such as large and small-scale performances, a farmer’s market, and pop-up shops…
So far the development has one tenant, Community Healthcare Associates, which plans to take over 400,000 square feet of the building. The developer envisions the complex will house a variety of tenants that meet the needs of the rather affluent surrounding community. “Everything has to mesh and come together: the clientele, the target market. There is room for many different levels,” said Zucker.
A fascinating building where much technological progress took place will be converted into another sort of lifestyle center for wealthy suburban residents. On one hand, it is a good idea to use the building for something the community can utilize now rather than let it fall into disrepair. On the other hand, the building could be treated like any other big box facility. There is potential here to market the new offices and uses as part of technological history – but this may not fit the theme of farmers markets, pop-up shops, and boutiques.
As the article notes, this building may just symbolize America at its post-war peak: big business, modern architecture, technology, all in a bucolic suburban (median household income over $140k) office campus setting. Perhaps after its redesign it will symbolize America of the 2010s: consumption, entrepreneurship, mixed-income developments, still in a bucolic suburban setting.
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