Clothing company Club Colors has agreed to lease 52,000 square feet and establish its national headquarters in Bell Works Chicagoland, the largest deal yet on the former AT&T campus in Hoffman Estates.
It’s a huge step forward for Inspired by Somerset Development, the New Jersey developer who bought the vacant 1.6 million-square-foot complex in 2019 and envisioned transforming it from a sterile corporate environment into a “metroburb,” a community hub for renters. and residents of the northwest suburb.
“We all want it to be successful because it’s not just an office building, or even an office building with a few stores,” said Kevin Kramer, Director of Economic Development for Hoffman Estates. “We don’t really have a downtown, so we see it as our downtown, a downtown under one roof.”
Village officials considered many proposals for the vacant property when AT&T left in 2016, including establishing a public university or shopping mall, but Somerset talked them into it, promising to fill it with renovated offices, public spaces, footpaths, cafes , others. commercial and co-working areas, all surrounded by hundreds of new apartments and townhomes. It was an unusual suggestion, but the developer had experience. Beginning in 2013, the company transformed the former Bell Labs campus in Holmdel, New Jersey, into a 2 million-square-foot mixed-use complex after attracting dozens of tenants.
The pandemic put a big damper on the company’s effort, but with big tenants like Club Colors back in the market for new spaces, momentum is returning, Kramer said.
“These 40,000 to 50,000 square foot tenants move the needle,” Kramer said. “Many companies are looking for new spaces where they can grow, but they also need spaces that are attractive where people really want to go, and that’s Bell Works.”
Heritage-Crystal Clean, an Elgin-based environmental services company, agreed to a long-term lease at Bell Works Chicagoland this spring, and in August it will relocate its 180 employees to 39,000 square feet. Existing tenants include Platinum Home Mortgage, Headline Solar, CPA Advisors Group, a local mosquito control company, and a stock crowdfunding company.
“The metroburb is unique in our market and we believe it is superior to any other option,” Jeff Baumet, co-CEO of Club Colors, now based in Schaumburg, said in a statement. “This new home allows us to provide services such as day care centers, gyms, restaurants and a wide range of other businesses to our entire team, from sales to operations.”
The Northwest suburban office market needs a jolt. Its vacancy rate spiked to nearly 30% just before the pandemic after several major employers, including Motorola Solutions, went on new digs in downtown Chicago and reached 34.9% earlier this year, according to an April report from Colliers International.
But conditions may soon improve, at least for Class A properties that provide employees with plenty of amenities.
“Transactions in best-in-class assets are expected to gain leasing momentum throughout 2022 as employers open offices and bring employees back,” Colliers noted.
Kramer said he hopes Bell Works Chicagoland will continue to attract firms that don’t want sterile offices. And Hoffman Estates plans to continue promoting it as the center of the town’s social life.
Several local nonprofits, including the Children’s Advocacy Center and Next Level Northwest, a business accelerator for Hoffman Estates and nearby municipalities, recently hosted fundraising galas inside the Bell Works atrium.
“This is a unique place for suburbia,” Kramer said.