By Chris Rotolo |
HOLMDEL – The industrial renaissance of the Bell Works building in Holmdel continued on Tuesday evening when the township Planning Board voted to approve the development of a one-story hotel within, and atop, the historical structure.
“I think what this hotel provides is the opportunity for that building to be brought fully back to life,” planning chairperson Serena DiMaso said. “This a space that was meant to host conventions, conferences and training seminars for the businesses that are there. And this hotel will allow for the expansion of its current uses.”
At 2 million square-feet, and roughly the size of the Empire State Building turned on its side, the Bell Works building will see the proposed 116,264-square-foot hotel run along its rooftop, and consist of no more than 200 rooms.
DiMaso went on to speak of the site’s storied past as Bell Labs, and described it as an epicenter of industry, where technological giants once roamed.
More than a decade ago, it was the vision of real estate developer Ralph Zucker to rebrand the property as Bell Works and revitalize the hub as a hotbed for modern technological visionaries.
His efforts have helped the site garner comparisons to an East Coast version of Silicon Valley, a designation that continues lure those innovators he so fiercely sought.
And what’s more, following Tuesday’s proceedings, by 2020 these industry leaders will have the ability to offer in-house hospitality to fellow pioneers of the field, according to Zucker.
“It’s gratifying, because I think it means the municipality of Holmdel, the residents, the stakeholders continue to buy into our vision,” said Zucker, who is the president of Somerset Development. “We’re gratified that we’ve built consensus, and now we’re going to build the hotel.”
Zucker and his team cleared a large hurdle on Tuesday, as the group delivered plans to install site improvements, including adequate parking accommodations, handicap parking stalls and ADA-compliant handicap accessible ramps for the existing building.
Zucker and his team, which included Michael Bruno – the attorney representing Somerset Development – and Karl A. Pehnke – an associate at Langan Engineering & Environmental Services and consultant to Somerset Development – also revealed plans for the launch of a restaurant in association with the hotel.
The group also quelled concerns from the public and Planning Board members about the possibility of their hotel rooms being used as extended stay residences, a notion brought into question with a satellite school soon expected to move into the Bell Works facility.
Zucker and his team quickly squashed the idea, agreeing to a board-appointed regulation that would forbid hotel guests from taking up residence for more than 30 days at a time.
According to Zucker, he and his development group are currently reviewing proposals from potential hotel management companies and operators, and will move toward completing their construction plans, which are nearly three quarters of the way done.
This article was first published in the Feb. 1-8, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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