Ever since the Eero Saarinen–designed Bell Labs building in central New Jersey closed six years ago, its fate has hung in the balance. Now the iconic edifice that was once the site of enormous technological innovation will re-emerge as a civic center for the surrounding town of Holmdel.
Somerset Development purchased the 1.9-million-square-foot building and the surrounding pastoral grounds from Alcatel-Lucent this summer, securing the future for the vacant structure, which closed in 2007 when the French telecommunications company consolidated its research facilities. At one point, another developer suggested razing the structure, an option that was scrapped after scientists and architects from around the world blasted the idea. And in August, the township of Holmdel approved a redevelopment plan for the site, ensuring the structure’s survival. With its future now settled, architects must decide how to transform the vaunted building into a viable mixed-use complex with a health center, hotel, offices, retail, and a library.