It was 2013, and I had been invited to tour the vacant former Bell Labs headquarters at 101 Crawfords Corner Road in Holmdel, NJ. A good friend of mine, Tom Michnewicz, head of development for Somerset Development, had asked me to come to see the building and meet the president of the firm and visionary of the project, Ralph Zucker. Intrigued by the idea, but with little appetite for a project this ambitious, I grabbed an intern from our office to come along with one very specific instruction: “Under no circumstances are you to let me get involved with this project.”
By the time we returned to the car after touring the building, I was brainstorming aloud how we would execute our presentation and eventually win the assignment. Needless to say, I drank the Kool-Aid.
It is important to remember that at the time, the economy had spent much of the last four years in utter turmoil and as small business owners, we had fought relentlessly to simply tread water. Now I was being wooed by the romantic vision of a project that should have otherwise set off every warning signal to alert me of a dangerous idea.
For starters, the majority of New Jersey office activity was conducted north of the Driscoll Bridge (connecting North and Central Jersey). That meant that Holmdel was practically a foreign country, especially when talking about a place to recruit technology companies.
The decision should have been obvious, and it was for many of my counterparts. A simple, “thank you for your time, and good luck” would have sufficed.
Flash forward five years and then-intern Kyle Mahoney, along with vice president Tara Keating and I, celebrate with the entire Somerset Development team as we surpass more than 1 million square feet of leasing activity at the now-renowned Bell Works project.
As a team, we have worked tirelessly for five trying years with a singular focus – to do everything in our power to help bring this vision to life. As the keeper of the vision, Ralph Zucker has challenged, motivated and enabled us every single day, and The Garibaldi Group is a better company for it.
The office space in the building is now over 80 percent leased. Retail space is over 50 percent leased. Thousands of people traffic through the massive atrium on a daily basis and it is home to some of the fastest growing technology companies in the state.
When we first moved our team into the building in 2013, the atrium floor was littered with puddles from leaky skylight panels and the project was running on a hope and a prayer. At the time, I would regularly quote Bruce Springsteen and tell Kyle and Tara, “Someday we’ll look back on this and it will all seem funny.” Today, we get to smile.