The Real Deal Chicago

Somerset plans major redevelopment of former AT&T campus: report

The developer envisions a "metroburb" of mixed-use project like its Bell Works in New Jersey
April 19, 2018 09:30AM

The former AT&T campus in Hoffman Estates (Credit: NAI Hiffman)

Somerset Development is eyeing the sprawling former AT&T campus in suburban Hoffman Estates for a massive redevelopment with a mix of residential, retail and hotel components.

The New Jersey developer is in talks with the village to buy the 120-acre site along the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway, village sources told Crain’s.

A Bloomberg report said the campus is under contract, but Somerset President Ralph Zucker said he “could not confirm nor deny” any plans for his firm to buy it.

Somerset has experience taking on projects on the scale of the 1.6 million-square-foot AT&T building. The firm was behind the redevelopment of the former Bell Labs research campus in Holmdel, New Jersey, which at 2 million square feet was once the single largest vacant office building in the country.

Zucker called the AT&T property — now known as Lakewood Center — “eerily similar” to the Bell Labs campus. He told Crain’s if his firm were to buy it, the vision for it would mirror what Somerset did with the Bell Works redevelopment.

“You’d find co-working, you’d find some retail, restaurants — you’d find life being created within those walls pretty quickly,” Zucker said. “We think the AT&T building in Hoffman Estates has that capability.”

The concept, which Zucker called a “metroburb,” is designed to help solve the issues created by companies departing their massive suburban homes for cities in search of young talent.

The AT&T campus is frequently mentioned as a driver of suburban office vacancy rates along with the former GE Healthcare complex in Barrington and the former Motorola headquarters in Schaumburg. Though Schaumburg officials last week discussed a vision for the Motorola property as an “urban, dense” mixed-use redevelopment not unlike what Somerset envisions in Hoffman Estates.

Irving, Texas-based loan servicer C-III Asset Management took control of the AT&T site in a sheriff’s sale last year after its former owner was hit with a $132 million foreclosure suit when AT&T’s lease expired in 2016, according to Crain’s.

Hoffman Estates Village Manager Jim Norris said Somerset has sent people multiple times to review the property, giving him confidence the complex will have signs of new life soon.

The Daily Herald first reported Somerset’s involvement with the property. [Crain’s] — John O’Brien