The Beatles gave us the Long and Winding Road. So did Bell Labs, in its own way. A lovely serpentine entrance roadway traverses the 400 plus acres, navigates around the transistor styled water tower and brings you to the 2 million square foot majestic and mirrored building. A happening may be a more apt description. It can literally take your breath away as you arrive in the parking area. The roadway expresses respect to both the tranquil residential nature of the area that surrounds Bell Works and it acts as a veritable red carpet to the site itself.
To appreciate it fully, visit during the day as the sun shines brightly on the mirrored building and the clouds show themselves on its reflective features. Also, drive through during the evening and experience the elegant treatment of lighting and landscaping that respects both the community surrounding and within Bell Works. Traveling through the site and visiting within it is, quite literally, for your bucket list. That may seem humorous until you learn that this building provided evidence to validate the Big Bang Theory. Not the show. The Theory. The man who guides your thought process on the universe? He still lives in town. Powerful.
As we travel through life, we make choices to play things safe in certain ways, yet we take risks when our passions demand it. So, this story talks about taking risk and the historic rewards that can be delivered when you meet them head on - in Holmdel - the region and – when you look at the list of intriguing Bell Works tenants – the world itself.
This story is about the professional side of the choices made to preserve history yet reach to the future through a creative local partnership with a developer. A developer who joined with the town threw the fast pitch to see where it would travel. It’s been fraught with financial, legislative and reputational peril.
It’s about the essence of Bell Works and, for Bell Labs ancestry; they would not have it any other less inventive and exploratory way. This isn’t a story about the history of Bell Labs, however. That part of our lives is ensconced in the annals of its significant history. Those risks and those rewards are absolutely legendary. They are known, they are documented, they are wondrous moments in time. They are also in their glorious past. This is about the now.
That said, its elements and discoveries allowed the very real stories that are new and now. The fascinating part of being within the ripples of this pond is that you travel to places that you may have never experienced before or even begin to understand:
- Drone Racing League (held at Bell Works) - illustrating changes from commerce to combat
- Driverless Cars – that will render getting behind the wheel almost quaint-happening nightly
- Augmented Reality – that blends alternate realities creates them anew
- Artificial Reality – Taking you far away and returning you without a step
- GPS Location Systems that precisely route and track every product on earth
- Software that finds your best employees before you knew they were even needed
- Robots that can write hyperlocal articles to be read by other robots? Check
Here’s the point. If you worked in Bell Labs – did you envision any of that as you mesmerized folks with your own work? How awesome is the fact that your inventions are helping to power the new of today?
We are in magical period of time in the nation's history. Bell Labs was a magical place where incredible things happened. Bell Works, with a graceful nod to this storied past, has provoked the same culture of innovation into the essence of what charged the building in years past. Innovation, risk, passion, relentless dedication to purpose and a variety of similarly situated souls - all developing a synergy that may just make the founders of Bell Labs blush. How awesome.
That’s the kind of magic you feel as you travel the serpentine road towards the entrance. The steps that take you in to this place are the same steps that took in the brilliant minds of our history. You are now a welcome part of it – it is now open for you.
You also have a narrator that has a burning flame for the location. He served as the key legislative dealmaker to make it happen (he was Mayor of Holmdel at the time). He was one of the deep divers into the project and shares his passion and memorable moments at the site at least monthly during very special, unique and deeply personalized tours. There is waiting list and you are welcome to join him.
His name is Eric Hinds.
Hinds has served as trailblazer, trendsetter and facilitator of the site and continues to narrate the history of the machinations behind Somerset Development and Holmdel, during the most challenging of land use times. Hinds is truly excited to share all of the great things going on at Bell Works, so...let’s go on a tour!
This particular tour was on the morning of August 9th. The crowd was about 50 people, mainly Holmdel residents. Some had just finished attending the Holmdel Chamber of Commerce meeting that was held at Bell Works, local realtors, former employees of Bell Labs, community neighbors from Middletown and Colts Neck, including Colts Neck Deputy Mayor, J.P. Bartolomeo. The crowd was immediately engaged and listening intently to what Hinds was saying and at the same time taking in the true awesomeness of such an amazing building.
Holmdel Township Committeeman Eric Hinds begins, “It was September of 2015 that we closed and it was very difficult to get off the ground. We believed in their vision (Somerset Development) to make a mixed use MetroBurb - after we closed we were beyond excited. To avoid the risk of the building work moving too slowly we agreed that it would be 20% leased before a signed certificate of occupancy would be given out. They had a big partner for 400,000 square feet which was great... until a month later when they backed out. So, we already agreed to subdivide and they had no tenant. It was not easy. Six months in, the first tenant consisted of only 13,000 square feet out of 2 million. We were happy but the first 15 months was exceptionally stressful. Most large commercial realtors would not take it on because they didn’t have the vision. The Garibaldi Group did. I give a lot of credit to them. They had the vision.” Hinds shares that vision, he is passionate about the success of Bell Works. He is about bringing the community of Holmdel together and Bell Works is a vehicle to make that happen. Bell Works is a place where someone can bring their children to the library that will be 17,000 square feet in size, take them to a daycare, stop at the salon, have lunch or dinner at a fantastic restaurant (prime New York restaurants are under active discussions), so much more is moving in. The Big Bang Cafe area is open to the public from 7:30 A.M. to 2:00P.M. Know what is going on in your town, if you haven't already, make sure to sign up for the next tour...
Hinds is a familiar face in the Bell Works building, stopping along the tour to briefly greet or shake hands with various company leaders, construction workers, cafe owners... He very comfortably and excitedly moves through the tour. Hinds continues with some other examples of the early accomplishments : “iCims wanted 350,000 square feet and an option for an additional 150,000 square feet and right of first refusal. It was a deal that was dynamic and important and worked for all parties. It made sense and they made the deal, a 13 year lease. It is also incredible to have a power company, JCP&L, in this building. Without power this building and this town doesn’t function.”
Some other highlights mentioned along the tour are:
Spirent Technology – (the second tenant that came in)
Mettel - (telecommuniocations service provider)
A hotel with 150 guest rooms and amenities
Three restaurants, and an area for special events that can seat thousands with an in-house caterer and liquor license
A beautiful modern Holmdel Library - finally! Due to be open early 2018 if not sooner.
A traditional performance theatre (historically a teaching theatre at Bell Labs)
Guardian – “Guardian is taking an entire floor. Folks who live near here and will no longer have to commute to New York are ecstatic.”
Acacia – light manufacturing of fiber optics – "Has a clean room – the largest clean room on the east coast cost over a million dollars – totally dust free – incredibly interesting, the allure of being involved in such intellectual capital is compelling to the marketplace."
Vi Collaboration Hub – “Come and work a week, a month, a day. The next iCims is being started right here. iCims started in Hazlet 16 years ago with three employees. Look at them now. Today we stand with a building that has about 84% leased with 28 businesses including IFF just signed which will be 60,000 square feet. This brings real jobs.” Every day there are new additions to the ongoing list of what's moving into Bell Works!
Hinds keeps the tour upbeat, interesting and conversational. Like not many can, Hinds can provide personal perspective on the inception of the rebirth of this amazing massive space, and recalls how one particular company contacted him four years ago: “This is something that I personally take a lot of pride in, as the building started to take shape I received a phone call from a woman in town whose husband used to work in Bell Labs and I communicated with her through email, and they had a lot of interest in coming back to Bell Works. I said sure what is your company? They said Nvidia. I hate to say this but it didn’t ring a bell at the time. Go ahead and Google Nvidia's stock price now. Right here at Bell Works if you come by at night you will see cars driving around Bell Works with no drivers. They are controlled by robots AI (Artificial Intelligence)." That is Nvidia. Cutting edge technology in our town of Holmdel. The future of technology is being created and is unfolding right here in Holmdel's Bell Works!"
Everyone needs an occasional coffee break and Booskerdoo out of Red Bank, is managing coffee services at Bell Works. They are open to the public from 8:00 A.M. to Noon. The community is encouraged to come and visit, have a bite and grab a coffee. Various kiosk oriented concepts are also planned. If you look around you will see that there is real history. Hinds continues, "In the 70's this was today's Silicon Valley. I don't agree when people think they need to leave New Jersey to compete with technology companies. I think we can compete in technology and the Bell Works building is a real power to that. Very often we talk about the eight Nobel prize winners that came out of this building. Remember the thousands of patents that came out of this place." The history that was made in Bell Works is remembered and displayed throughout with various inscribed panels that include photographs and written historical facts. If you haven't had a chance to, you can stop by the cafe, grab a cup of coffee and go on your own little tour of the history of the building, including standing inside an actual phone booth, yes the one that today's children look at quite puzzled. The tour finale is traveling down the steps to level one which is below the main entrance level (which is level two). There is an actual theatre located in level one--a real theatre, with a stage and upholstered seats. It was a teaching theatre when the building was Bell Labs. Standing there in that theatre just thinking about all the history made in the room, totally new ideas being born that shaped the future of technology, the future we are all now living in. The very technology that now has replaced the need for a teaching theatre. There is a new life waiting to unfold for this theatre in the very near future, perhaps reborn as a performing arts theatre for Holmdel.
Holmdel resident Kathy Slavin who attended the tour commented, "The Bell Works tour is such an interesting experience! The building is certainly the most innovative venue to work at. There are 28 companies working here and many more coming in. There is a roof top garden to be enjoyed by employees and visitors and it has a fantastic view of Holmdel and the surrounding area. The tour given by Eric Hinds, former Mayor of Holmdel is very informative and extremely interesting. I strongly recommend this tour, and if Eric is giving it you will not be disappointed!"
When local government works hand in hand with a developer to handle real challenges you can do great things. Colts Neck Deputy Mayor J.P. Bartolomeo who along with his father Joe Bartolomeo, were on the tour. J.P. commented, "Colts Neck is very excited about the redevelopment of Bell Works. It is very inspiring to see the repurposing of such an important landmark in Monmouth County." Hinds echoed Bartolomeo's feelings and added, "This is on track to be the most successful project in New Jersey, in the last thirty to forty years. It's an incredible success for our town and the community." The tour is approximately 90 minutes, however the audience is so captivated by the energy and wonder and excitement that when it's over many expressed how quickly the time passed. It's that interesting. However, for Committeeman Hinds, this is 90 minutes of public service over and over again every month... Some ask why does he do this. Hinds responds, "The reason I am so passionate about Bell Works is because I know it will have a lasting positive effect on Holmdel, Monmouth County and the State of New Jersey. I cannot think of a better way to communicate the transition from Bell Labs to Bell Works, than to donate my time and provide tours to the public."
Thank you Eric Hinds for your vision and for your passion. Bell Works is doing great things every moment right here in Holmdel, you too can be a part of the excitement.
BellWorks YouTube Flythru graphic can be seen here:
If you would like to sign up for a tour of Bell Works you can email firstname.lastname@example.org
September tour dates will be announced soon.
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