Accompanied by strong enthusiasm from area businesspeople and wary optimism from other local governments, Hoffman Estates officials Monday approved a concept plan and agreement to repurpose the former 1.6 million-square-foot AT&T campus into a self-contained community called "City Works."
New Jersey-based Somerset Development is adapting the lessons it's learned from the similar redevelopment of the 2 million-square-foot former Bell Labs building in Holmdel, N.J., into a conglomeration of offices, stores, restaurants, entertainment venues, residences and a hotel that's now named Bell Works.
Holmdel Township Mayor Tom Critelli and Administrator Donna Vieiro give rave reviews to the project, while admitting it initially took Somerset Development President Ralph Zucker some time to get others to understand and buy into his vision.
Today, the 5,000 people who report to office jobs there are able to eat, shop and partake in recreation right on site, Critelli said. Zucker also donated money and 20,000 square feet to create the Holmdel Library there.
"They absolutely love it," Critelli said of his community in an interview. "I can't stress enough how terrific a project it's turned out to be."
But District 220 officials say the example of Bell Works is limited in how much it can tell them about the impact of City Works on their operations.
Bell Works consists of 185 senior housing units and 40 single-family homes, while City Works expects to target millenial workers with 375 apartments and 175 townhouses.
District 220 Superintendent Brian Harris said he and the school board are looking for assurance that the 100 to 125 potential new students the district has projected won't outweigh the increased taxes from the improved property.
South Barrington Village President Paula McCombie also asked for more specifics on traffic and financial impacts on her village.
But Gregg Majewski, who owns Jerseys Pizza & Grill on Lakewood Boulevard just west of the campus, spoke of how much his land's value has diminished since AT&T left. He implored Hoffman Estates officials not to let District 220's concerns about 100 students stand in the way of breathing new life into the area.
Jon Anderson, a South Barrington resident and principal of Nationwide Mortgage and Realty Co. in Hoffman Estates, also spoke of the need for more quality office space in the area. He estimated it could bring 4,000 to 5,000 new jobs and be a boon to the local housing market.