Transforming Suburban Towns into Metroburbs

As part of our Future of Innovation series, Steve Adubato goes One-on-One with Ralph Zucker, Bell Works Developer, to talk about transforming a suburban town into a booming Metroburb, a mixed-use hub of offices, restaurants and shops that offers a taste of urban cool in a suburban setting.

6/26/19 #2221






"This is Steve Adubato. Coming to you from the NJTV Studio. This is One on One. That video we're gonna put in context. Part of our... this is part of our Future of Innovation series. Proud to introduce the gentleman who was very much behind that video. He's Ralph Zucker, President, Somerset Development, developer of Bell Works. Good to see you. Good morning. Tell folks what we're looking at. Is that, by the way, what his chyron referred to it as a metro...? ...burb. ...burb? Yes. The first metroburb that we know... we coined the term, we tried to create a word that would capture the idea of a metropolis in suburbia. But where is that? In suburbia. Holmdel, New Jersey. Exit 114 off the Garden State Parkway? Yes. Former Bell Labs. It was the Googleplex before there was Google. Okay. You had this idea, you said, over a decade, of a metroburb. Why? Well, we find that people gravitate towards urban cores. They want that urban cool, urban comfort, urban convenience. But more people live in the suburbs than live in the cities. And they also want to benefit from that slice of urbanity. So we bring it to them to suburbia. So what goes on there? I mean... and how does it change the landscape and the culture of the community? Well, if you walk into Bell Works any given day, you'll find a hub of activity. You'll find a pedestrian... we call it "on the block" - a Main Street running right through the building. With shops slowly but surely opening up. Restaurants, food hall, daycare, medical care, dentist, topped by 1.2 million square feet of office. So it has that urban feel. You have everything you would have in a small city. And great companies coming together to cross-pollinate, to be inspired from each other. Our friends at the Economic Development Authority told us about what you and your colleagues are doing. Again, part of our series looking at innovation. How do you view this concept of, quote unquote, "innovation?" Isn't innovation just another word for, "Hey! How do we remain more relevant in a competitive situation? In a competitive environment?" Isn't that really what innovation is? Well, to me, innovation is a return to common sense. It's allowing people unfettered access to each other. It's getting them out from behind their desk. It's allowing that serendipitous encounter that causes creativity, that fosters creativity. That's what innovation is all about. When Bell Labs was designed... By the way, tell folks what Bell Labs was. Talk about innovation? Yeah. What was Bell Labs? And then what happened? Well..."