While the ultimate vision for the planned Bell Works "metroburb" in the former AT&T headquarters in Hoffman Estates remains intact, the pandemic is causing some proposed tweaks to its earliest steps to enable it to get a foothold in a recovering economy.
Rather than seeking approval upfront for an overall rehab of the existing office space, New Jersey-based Somerset Development is hoping to market some of that space as-is to early tenants at a reduced cost.
The possibility would exist for such pioneers within the anticipated self-contained community of businesses and residences to shift over to renovated space in the future, village officials say.
Hoffman Estates Director of Development Services Peter Gugliotta reported these suggested changes to village board members this week.
"The good news is they're still moving forward," Gugliotta said of Somerset. "They have the same vision. I want to make sure I communicate that. Nothing has changed about what they're hoping the outcome of this project will be, and they're really hoping it's still going to be something in the same vein of what you've seen before."
The three-building, 150-acre campus Somerset bought last year came with 1.6 million square feet of office space.
The village board has already approved renovation of the interior lobby and atrium space, as well as construction of 32,462 square feet of speculative office space and 2,000 square feet of retail or restaurant space on the main floor of the central building at 2000 Center Drive.
But COVID-19 has disrupted the economy as it's threatened human health.
"The immediate, present-day tenant interest is none," Gugliotta said. "All that has been put on pause."
Once the economy starts to reopen, Somerset hopes at least two to four tenants will accept the offer for existing office space to get the project moving. This would require no greater approval than these tenants moving into any existing office building, officials said.
Village board members expressed satisfaction with the slight course adjustment but asked for regular updates.
"I think it's great," Trustee Karen Mills said. "We definitely want to keep them moving along on their projects."
The residential component of the project also remains important, but the developer is taking the opportunity to step back and assess it in a forward-thinking manner, Gugliotta said.
Somerset's plan has been to sell some of the land adjacent to the main building to another developer for the construction of 380 multifamily residential units and 170 townhouses. Though the number of both types of housing is allowed to vary by 8%, the total number of units cannot exceed 550.