Somerset Development buys AT&T complex in Hoffman Estates for “metroburb” project

The firm plans a sweeping mixed-used redevelopment of the 150-acre former corporate campus

TRD CHICAGO /
Mar.March 28, 2019 03:30 PM

Somerset President and CEO Ralph Zucker and a New Bell Works rendering

Somerset Development is moving ahead with plans for the $200 million Bell Works “metroburb” on the former AT&T headquarters in Hoffman Estates, formally acquiring the site on Tuesday.

Somerset has been in talks with Hoffman Estates village officials for a year regarding its plans for the 150-acre site. The firm partnered with Triangle Capital Group on this week’s acquisition of the property, first reported by the Daily Herald.

Terms of the purchase were not released, and the deal had not been recorded by Thursday afternoon in county records.

Somerset wants to convert the AT&T property into 1.2 million square feet of offices, 60,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, and 60,000 square feet of conference space, storage and amenities.

The firm plans to sell some of the land adjacent to the main AT&T office building to another developer for the construction of up to 380 apartments and 170 townhouses, according to the Daily Herald.

Somerset hopes to replicate its success in converting the former Bell Labs campus in Holmdel, New Jersey, into the Bell Works complex. It plans to call the Hoffman Estates project Bell Works as well.

Somerset President and CEO Ralph Zucker in a statement called the closing an important milestone, “and another huge step toward the creation of Chicagoland’s first metroburb.”

Taconic Capital Advisors provided financing for the acquisition and pre-development costs, Somerset said. Colliers will serve as exclusive broker for Bell Works.

The metroburb concept, a dense urban-like development within a suburban setting, is designed to help solve the issues created by companies departing their massive suburban headquarters for cities in search of young talent.

Large former corporate headquarters like the vacant AT&T site in Hoffman Estates frequently are mentioned as a driver of suburban office vacancy rates, along with the former GE Healthcare complex in Barrington, the old McDonald’s headquarters in Oak Brook and the former Motorola Solutions campus in Schaumburg, which is undergoing a redevelopment of its own.

Texas-based loan servicer C-III Asset Management took control of the AT&T site in a sheriff’s sale in 2017, after its former owner was hit with a $132 million foreclosure suit when AT&T’s lease expired in 2016, according to Crain’s.


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