Introducing Hoffman Estates' New 'Metroburb'

Approximately two years after AT&T left its campus in the northwestern suburb of Hoffman Estates, it still remains unoccupied, according to the Chicago Tribune. A developer from New Jersey hopes to change that with a proposal to transform the corporate campus into a “metroburb.” 

Aerial of former Bell Labs campus in Holmdel, N.J photo courtesy of MBisanz

What is a Metroburb?

A metroburb is essentially a small urban hub contained within a suburb. Ralph Zucker, president of New Jersey-based Somerset Development, claims he coined the name, according to the report. The concept involves a mix of homes, offices, and retail space.

Zucker already spearheaded the creation of one metroburb in New Jersey. The former Bell Labs in Holmdel, N.J., became the Bell Works development. The New Jersey metroburb is steadily gaining office tenants (including a bank and tech companies) and retail tenants (including a café and hair salon), according to the report.

The arrangement of the metroburb’s buildings is a big part of creating the city feel.

"All of our retail is facing that center court. It's really a vibrant street scene… literally a small downtown,” said Zucker, according to a report from the Daily Herald.

Somerset Development is aiming to bring the same concept to the vacant campus in Hoffman Estates, which now goes by the name of Lakewood Center Chicago. 

What Does the New Project Mean for Hoffman Estates? 

Zucker’s $250 million proposal for Lakewood Center Chicago features an overhaul of the main, 1.3 million-square-foot building on the campus. The main building would feature 1.2 million square feet of office space, 80,000 square feet of conference space, and 60,000 square feet of retail space, according to the Daily Herald. The developer’s plan also includes rental homes, a hotel, and 175 townhomes, which will be lined on straight streets to emulate a city. That goal would be reflected in the metroburb’s name: City Works.

“We want to make it feel as much like a city as possible,” said Ken Gold, vice president of acquisitions and development at Somerset Development, according to the Chicago Tribune report.

If the project moves forward, it could mean significant property taxes for Hoffman Estates. The AT&T campus generated approximately $8.5 million in property taxes, according to the Chicago Tribune report. Plus, the urban vibes of the development could prove a significant lure for Millennials who love the city, but not its cost of living.

What does the development timeline look like?

Planning and zoning commissioners with Hoffman Estates have already recommended approval for the City Works plan, according to the Daily Herald report. While the suburb seems enthusiastic about the development, there are several key steps before City Works becomes a reality. Final approval of the project is likely six months away.

Somerset Development will still need purchase the 152-acre site, which will also need to be rezoned, according to the Chicago Tribune report.

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