Bell Works Tubes Project Uses Functional Art To Reimagine A Futuristic Public Space

It was a long-anticipated installation in the Bell Works community: The tubular sofas known as the Bell Works Tubes in our atrium.

The completion of the furniture marked the end of a two-year project to create a collective space that is simultaneously artistic and functional, dramatic and comfortable, historic and modern. Whether you’re entering the atrium for the first time or simply passing by on your way to work, the Tubes set the stage for the creative and collaborative environment that makes Bell Works so unique.

With its sharp lines, bold patterns, and bright pops of color, the work may appear to be something straight out of a modern art museum; yet its open layout and unexpected design create a fun and inviting atmosphere that welcomes regulars and newcomers alike. The custom-designed atrium furniture project is the brainchild of a talented team of creatives: world-renowned furniture designer Ron Arad, and the team behind the Italian artisan furniture company Moroso and the creative team of Bell Works - Master Architect Alexander Gorlin, Creative Director and founder of NPZ Style + Décor Paola Zamudio, and Ralph Zucker, President of Somerset Development and the visionary behind the building’s adaptive reuse.

“It became immediately clear (after meeting Zamudio and Arad) that we have a mutual understanding of design and quality,” said Moroso’s Jens Rodieck. “Throughout the project, intensive discussions, meetings, and site visits helped us design a work that contributes profoundly to an iconic building.”

“This was a collaborative effort,” Zamudio said, “but the furniture designer is Ron Arad and it was his vision for the round tubes as a contrast to the squares within the space. He insisted on creating his own custom design after he visited. I love his aesthetic, everything he makes is sculptural art.”

Ron Arad (second from left) discusses design concepts with Master Architect Alexander Gorlin and representatives of the Moroso team at Bell Works.

Zamudio turned to art history as the starting point for the project, selecting a 1926 work by textile artist Anni Albers as her inspiration behind the furniture design. She thought the colors and the story would be a perfect complement to the existing atrium tile work, which had been designed by Gorlin after the work of Anni’s husband, Josef Albers. It was Gorlin’s architectural perspective that helped Zamudio create the layout. “I selected Anni Albers’s work because I wanted to connect the history of their artwork as pioneers of twentieth-century modernism, as well as their relationship to one another.” Zamudio was also drawn to the yellow and red pops of color in Anni Albers’ work that would brighten and enliven the space.

 Photo by Marcus deSilva

Zamudio’s next step was to find a furniture concept that would complement the floor while also contributing to the innovative design of the atrium. Arad was so captivated by pictures of the building that he visited Bell Works to see the stunning architectural feat for himself. He was then inspired to create his custom-designed tubular sofas, which made their debut at Milan’s Salone del Mobile Milano and went on to be featured in the New York Times. The artisans at Moroso provided the functional component to Arad’s design and manufactured his work for commercial use.

Despite attracting design attention from around the world, the space is so much more than just an artistic display—it also serves as a common area for the building that cultivates a strong sense of community and sets the tone for the creative and innovative environment of Bell Works. “Paola and Ralph’s vision for an interactive place to work, relax, and meet gave way to a design which is simultaneously functional, beautiful, and fun,” Rodieck said. The openness of the space—and lack of corners and walls to hide behind—creates an accessible setting that encourages people to interact with one another. The unique design of the atrium and the Tubes is something you couldn’t find anywhere else, and this originality inspires the surrounding community to think boldly and imaginatively.

The creative team behind the Tubes attributes much of the successful creation of the space to Ralph Zucker and his openness to new ideas. He encouraged the group to try new methods and experiment stylistically throughout the project. “Ralph believes in the importance of great design and encouraged me to take artistic risks,” explained Zamudio, “A lot of the time, developers want something safe; Ralph wants the future.”

Zamudio takes pride in the legacy of design that the Tubes will leave at Bell Works, and she especially enjoys seeing the community gather in the atrium around the new furniture installation. “Now you can see people sitting at the Tubes and talking to each other. This is why people come to Bell Works—it’s not just the building, it’s because they want to feel connected, they want to meet the people here. That connection is what we’re nurturing in each of the areas we create.”

See how Bell Works tenant JGS Insurance takes a break on the Tubes. Click to watch.


Putting the “Live” in the Bell Works’ Live. Work. Play Motto

As the metroburb continues to grow, an increasing number of employees at Bell Works are seeking nearby housing options. This spring, the buzz is building around a new location for Bell Workers – or just members of the surrounding community – who might be looking for a beautiful place to live, convenient surroundings, and a short commute to work: Glassworks. The 55-acre site is expected to house 500 new residential units in Cliffwood (Aberdeen), just a 15-minute drive up the Garden State Parkway from Bell Works.

“It’s a very viable target for workers (at Bell Works) that might be stuck with long commutes, who might be looking for something in the area that is more affordable than the housing in Holmdel,” said Thomas Michnewicz,  vice president of Somerset Development. Somerset is the master developer of Glassworks, as well as the developer behind Bell Works.

This rendering of 55-acre Glassworks complex shows its proximity to the Garden State Parkway.

In addition to its proximity to Bell Works, Glassworks is adjacent to state highways and bus stops, surrounded by a wide range of local amenities and attractions, and only 10 minutes away from the Aberdeen-Matawan train station. But the development has much more to offer than a great location alone.

The site, which was once the location of the abandoned Anchor Glass manufacturing facility (hence the name ‘Glassworks’), had been left vacant and deteriorating for over 20 years. Seeing potential in its future, Somerset Development bought the property and obtained approvals for a mixed use project to include residential units, retail space and a hotel. The company then sold a portion of the site to Ingerman, a Mid-Atlantic based multi-family developer, contractor, and property manager, to build apartments.

The former Anchor Glass manufacturing facility was abandoned 20 years ago.

Currently Glassworks includes two communities, The Forge at Glassworks and The Willows at Glassworks, which together house 280 units total. As the development continues to expand in the coming years, additional apartments will become available on the property.

The Forge at Glassworks consists of 170 premium apartments. Each unit features stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors, and an in-unit washer and dryer. Residents can enjoy a community building which houses a game area, fitness center, lounge pool, sauna, fire pit, and barbecue.

Kitchen in a unit at The Forge.

The Forge offers one- and two-bedroom apartments, starting at 796 square feet and 1074 square feet, respectively, as well as three-bedroom townhomes which start at 1472 square feet. One of its most attractive features is its reasonable price point, which ranges from approximately $1,500 to $2,500 per unit.

Ingerman’s second development, The Willows at Glassworks, is an affordable family apartment community with 110 units. Like The Forge, The Willows features a community building with a fitness center and other amenities, as well as beautiful in-unit features. The exteriors of The Willows and The Forge buildings look identical to one another, reinforcing the cohesive sense of community Ingerman is cultivating at Glassworks.

“Something we’re very proud of at Ingerman is that we’ve set a new standard for what people think when they think of ‘affordable housing’,” explained Todd Stecker, director of leasing and marketing for Ingerman. “These are beautifully made apartments (at The Willows). They have granite countertops, hardwood cabinets, and spacious housing.”

Exterior of The Forge in Aberdeen will be available for lease in summer 2018.

The communities at Glassworks were designed as a mixed-use project encompassing rental and for-sale homes, public space, along with a retail component – all created with a wide range of residents in mind. The Forge features one and two bedroom apartments, as well as over 50 townhomes, to accommodate different demographics.

The apartments cater to millennials in their 20s and 30s, specifically to employees at Bell Works who want to be close to the metroburb without the expense of Holmdel housing. The townhomes are aimed toward beginning families, as well as older individuals who are looking to downsize.

“With the combination of rentals and for-sale properties, we wanted to have that mix to appeal to a variety of residents,” Michnewicz said. “This affords the workers here at Bell Works, especially the millennials and people in their first jobs, a lower cost of housing.”

A rendering of the Glassworks complex shows public spaces and greenways.

Glassworks Park, a two-acre public park in between The Forge and The Willows, will be completed in the spring. The park will feature walking trails, basketball courts, and sections of the original smokestacks from the historical glass factory site.

“We are ‘new urbanists’; our goal is to build communities. We build communities as opposed to just building homes,” Michnewicz said. “Green space is important for communities as places that all can use to congregate and places to walk.”

Ingerman is wrapping up construction of both The Forge and The Willows, which Stecker calls “a flagship community for (the) company”. The company expects The Willows at Glassworks to reach full occupancy by March 1, and expects to complete The Forge in late spring. The Forge will be leased out through the summer.

Somerset is in the process of obtaining approvals to build an additional 99 townhouses beginning this spring, as well as 75,000 square feet of retail space and a hotel later in the development process.

To learn more about The Forge at Glassworks, call 833-614-9187 or visit LiveTheForge. To learn more about The Willows at Glassworks, call 732-428-0194 or visit LiveWillows.

Hair, Design, and Concrete: A Collaboration Between Salon Concrete and Solid & Void

When Christine Zilinski first stepped foot into Bell Works, she knew she had finally found the perfect place. For several years, the owner and leader of Red Bank’s Salon Concrete had scoured the state looking for a space to open a second location, but she had yet to find the right spot. After three clients came into her salon raving about Bell Works in a week’s time, she felt compelled to see the building for herself.

“The moment I pulled up and first saw the building, I got goosebumps,” said Zilinski, “I just felt like this was where we were meant to be.”

Zilinski founded Salon Concrete’s first location in Red Bank 18 years ago, focusing on community, entrepreneurship, and leadership as the foundation for both her business and her professional life. She knew that opening a location at Bell Works meant joining an inspiring community of entrepreneurs and visionaries.

Salon Concrete’s new location at Bell is a 2,400-square-foot space located on the ground floor of the building 1 nearby the west atrium. When it came to finding an architect to execute her vision, Zilinski said she couldn’t imagine anyone better for the project than Mike Pond, an award-winning architect and owner of Solid & Void Design.


Mike Pond, architect/builder, Christine Zilinski, Salon Concrete owner, Laura Turton, carpenter.Mike Pond, architect/builder, Christine Zilinski, Salon Concrete owner, Laura Turton, carpenter.


Pond and the Solid & Void team work on commissioned spaces in the central New Jersey area, delivering custom design and building expertise to each of their clients. Coincidentally, Zilinski named her first location “Salon Concrete” long before meeting Pond, and Pond and his business are particularly well recognized for their creative work in concrete. This made the opportunity to work together on Salon Concrete’s second location all the more exciting for them both.

The two met when Pond was working on a project in Red Bank near the salon. After a conversation about the relationship between haircutting and architecture, Zilinski and Pond quickly realized that their design philosophies, though expressed through different mediums, were one in the same.

“I believe it’s the simplicity of things that makes them beautiful. Mike had the same philosophy,” said Zilinski. “I could feel his passion for architecture and design through my conversations with him. I felt that if I ever opened another location, I would want to work with him to build it.”

“We had a great symbiosis before we even started working together,” agreed Pond. “That rapport is what made the difference. We have a different approach to some things, but at our core, we’re very similar.”

Perhaps most importantly, Pond understood Zilinski’s mission to bring back the principles of simplicity in design favored by stylists like Vidal Sassoon and build a community of hairstylists who understand the craft. His passion for the project only grew stronger when he discovered that the Bell Works building was designed by one of his favorite architects, Eero Saarinen.

Despite the fact that Pond was entirely new to the salon industry, his expertise and passion for the project made his fresh perspective a strength instead of a weakness. He immersed himself in the industry, from traveling to New York to study the architecture of a famous salon to observing the entire process of a haircut at Salon Concrete, start to finish, so he could examine a stylist’s needs every step of the way.

By approaching the project from an angle of design and simplicity instead of convention, Pond made suggestions to Zilinski that blatantly opposed the industry standard. But Zilinski’s trust in Pond’s expertise led her to embrace his suggestions with an open mind.

The result of their collaboration will be a space unlike any salon you’ve seen before: A wall will cover most of the outside entrance, giving passersby only a glimpse into the transformations unfolding inside. Students and visitors will flow into the salon’s multi-use area for classes and art shows. A curving concrete wall—an architectural feat—will stretch through the center of the salon. And, perhaps most importantly, employees and clients alike will enjoy a beautiful space custom-designed for Zilinski and Salon Concrete.

Pond’s experience in concrete work, coupled with his passion for working with the material, resulted in a beautiful translation of the name “Salon Concrete” into a physical space designed around the use of concrete as a material element.

“Concrete is possibly the only commonly used material that has a naturalistic quality to it, but whose existence is fully dependent on the intervention of humans… It's a fusion of raw materials, but is often held in the same regard as those naturally occurring materials,” Pond said. “It's this concept that I was exploring a bit, with the cavernous openings in the concrete (walls) being treated the way they are. This idea that this wall can be ‘reenacted’…, but never duplicated. This concept is remarkably similar to how Christine approaches hair.”

As the leader of her salon, Zilinski’s passion and dedication to helping people transform sets her business apart from others. “The transformation can come from me educating my team, pushing them to be better hair stylists and better people. It’s about understanding what’s underneath the hair, and it’s about serving people.”

In designing and building a space that reflects these values, Zilinski and Pond have created an environment that elevates a routine haircut into an immersive and transformative experience that is much more than the sum of its parts.

In Pond’s words, “People won’t see this, they’ll feel it. Some details aren’t meant to be seen. They’re meant to be felt.”

Salon Concrete’s Bell Works location is scheduled to open this Spring. Stay tuned for updates on the Salon Concrete’s website and Instagram, and learn more about Mike Pond and Solid & Void via their website or Instagram.

Rendering to Reality



“It’s exactly like we envisioned it!”

Ralph Zucker, President of Somerset Development, the company that bought the abandoned AT&T campus in Holmdel, NJ had this ‘Aha!’ moment when he saw the first photos of the July 6, 2017 fireworks celebration here. It was a night time fly over shot with the building aglow in the woods, alive once again with activity. “I really was so surprised and delighted to see how the reality of our Bell Works matches, almost perfectly, the renderings we first presented to key partners to start the project approval process. We are accomplishing exactly what we set out to accomplish with our metroburb.”

Alexander Gorlin, President of Alexander Gorlin Architects, lead architect and co-visionary with Zucker of the adaptive reuse project, said, “I always saw it as this glass box -- reflecting the sky and sunlight during the day and glowing like a lantern at night with Manhattan, also glowing at night, visible in the distance.”

The iconic building was designed by famed architect Eero Saarrinen in 1959 and built in 1962.

You can get that same perspective of the realization of their vision by watching the earliest ‘film’ of the project, an animated piece created by partner digital agency in Shanghai. Without ever seeing the building in person, animators used detailed specifications, print renderings and the insights of  Zucker and Gorlin,to create a future rendering that turned out to be incredibly accurate..

“It really is exceptional that we have been able to implement our ideas, our vision, so faithfully to how we first conceived the building,” Gorlin said. “Part of that success is attributed to the fact that we had a very clear, informed vision of what we wanted. There were storyboards and an animated film that showed it all; from coming down the driveway, past the transistor water tower and up the alley of trees -- right up to the building and then crossing through the glass exterior into the building.”

Gorlin also attributes the fidelity of reality to original vision to the fact that he and Zucker share a deep, mutual respect and admiration for the other’s work. “We valued the same, crucial points of the experience (of the re-development),” he says. “ And there’s a unique chemistry between us. We both have a great love of architecture and urbanism and all it represents. All of this has allowed us to work together in a way that I would say is unique between architect and developer.”

Moshe Gross, Director of Special Projects for the metroburb, gives VIP tours of the building and has since it opened. He is intimately aware of how much time and energy the project’s leadership team spends to make sure the history of the building is honored and represented, even as construction has opened up offices, replacing concrete walls with glass and upgrading the technology infrastructure to serve an evolved work style and different needs. “It’s not a museum,” he says, “but we have the same respect for history and preserving important stories of accomplishment as museums do. So tenants and visitors will see mini installations with the building’s history, drawing connections between important people and events that mattered then and still inspire and motivate us today. Like the Josef Albers inspired floor. That’s an enormously important part of the building we took great care to get right. We’re proud of that and people respond to it.”

Gorlin agrees with Gross, and adds that the renovations honor the famed architect’s own vision. “Saarinen would have been happy with every single thing we’ve done, here,” he says. “We took his masterpiece which accommodated a different type of work, for people with more solitary minds who needed seclusion, and we just expanded on that; updating features to accommodate a contemporary way of working and allowing connection across very distinct barriers that existed in concrete and other elements of the old building.”

See the vision unfold. Watch the original Bell Works animation.

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A Saarinen Visits Bell Works

Guests mingled and took in the view from the Bell Works rooftop deck at the closing party and dinner hosted by Meridian on Aug. 11. Special guest, Eric Saarinen, son of renowned Bell Labs architect Eero Saarinen, who spoke to guests, a testament to the fact that Bell Works continues to uphold a great legacy of innovation, technology and design.



You Are Here: Bell Works Wayfinding Makes It Easier To Move Through the Metroburb

Walk through any entrance to the Bell Works building in Holmdel, NJ, and there’s a reason to stop and stare. It’s gorgeous. All of it. Every square inch.

In fact, Bell Works is a little bigger than an inch. It’s 2 million square feet of stunning, iconic architectural design in glass, steel and concrete, with six floors including a lower level and a terrace overlooking an engineered lake. And every day, more and more people walk through one of the building’s three public entrances, arriving via one of two main roads and parking in one of four parking lots that encircle the mid-century masterpiece designed by Eero Saarinen.

Yes. Bell Works is a BIG place and for a newcomer navigating it can be confusing, but moving through the metroburb is about to get a lot easier thanks to a new wayfinding program by Via Collective.

Wayfinding is absolutely the on-the-nose term for how people navigate built spaces -- how humans ‘find their way’. Katie Osborn, Principal & Wayfinding Strategist of Via Collective sums up the concept, “Ultimately, wayfinding is not about signage at all. It’s about the bigger picture of how people experience a building. It’s really about designing an experience that prioritizes each person’s agenda within the building, helping them navigate their experiences in a space in an easy and thoughtful way.”

“Diagramming the traffic from how people enter to how they exit Bell Works, allows us to understand all the decisions drivers will need to make, including various destinations within Bell Works, to which road they need to exit. The color coded signs of the parking lots, related to the buildings, will assist people in navigating the complex.”  - Katie Osborn, Principal & Wayfinding Strategist of Via Collective

Commercial and retail tenants,  customers, community members and special event guests all have their own reasons for being in the building, and Osborn and her team have designed a system that will serve the varying needs of all these different groups. “We needed to acknowledge right away that though Ralph (Zucker) was preserving the historic character of the building, it’s no longer home to one, corporate entity,’ says Osborn. “Bell Works is a new thing, a new community and an employee at Trendsetter or WorkWave has different wayfinding needs than someone attending a tech conference or having a lunch and shopping date with an out-of-town friend.”

Ralph Zucker, President of Somerset Development and the visionary behind the metroburb in 2016, hired Via Collective after a series of conversations with his Creative Director, Paola Zamudio, of NPZ Style + Decor. Zamudio impressed upon Zucker the need for a wayfinding system that not only honors the mid-century design elements of the building and works with the aesthetic character but also was grounded in a strategy that could help the thousands of visitors that are expected to flow through it’s doors each year. Since coming on board, Via Collective has become a part of the larger Bell Works team, including Zamudio, Mancini Duffy, IA Interior Architects, and Alex Gorlin, senior architect for the project.

“The first question we ask when we start a project is, Who is going to use the space?,” Osborn said.

Osborn sees her role as practical and interpretive, building on the work of the architects and designers. “If I do my job well, no one knows I did my job,” Osborn said. “Signs should look like a part of the building -- reflecting the branding, colors, and architectural features. The wayfinding features shouldn’t look like they’ve been imposed on the building, but as if they’ve grown out naturally from the building.”

After extensive consultation and research, Via Collective designed a wayfinding strategy that assigns a color code to each of the four buildings, corresponding to the primary brand color of each of the four anchor tenants: Workwave  - turquoise; JCP&L  - purple; iCIMS - red; and Guardian - yellow. Throughout the building, including at the elevator banks and each of the different entrances, visitors and building tenants will see this color theme used consistently to reassure people they are in the right place. “The goal is for people to feel confident about the direction they’re going. We want them to be focused on their destination and the goal of their visit, not how they’re getting there,” Osborn said.

Wayfinding is not about signage at all. It’s about the bigger picture of how people experience a building.

In addition to signage, there will multiple points of reference with different options for digital interaction such as kiosks at every entrance as well as human customer service teams at strategic locations.  This mix of wayfinding techniques, including digital interactive maps and a complete online component that connects through Google, acknowledges that people understand and process information differently. The best wayfinding, Osborn says, allows people to access information in a format and experience that’s meaningful to them.

“The first question we ask when we start a project is, Who is going to use the space? Aesthetic is important as it’s connected to the brand and the architectural features of the building and complex, but ultimately, for wayfinding to work, we need to know things like, How many destinations will a typical visitor or occupant make during their stay? What modes of transportation are they using to get there and even once they get there? What’s the path of travel?”

Bell Works recently received approval from Holmdel Township for the signage that will mark the entrances to the campus from the road -- the last hurdle before beginning full implementation of the wayfinding program. Although the program will be implemented on a rolling basis, Osborn expects that the entire project, from fabricating and installing signage to hiring and training customer service team will take about a year.

Stay up to date with all the news about Bell Works and the metroburb community. SIGN UP FOR THE BLOG. or --  Follow on Instagram for up to date info on this project and more at Bell Works.

When the Biggest Office Perk is Getting Out of the Office

You won’t find a slide or a pool table in the new offices of iCIMS under construction here at Bell Works. And there won’t be a brew pub or a sushi bar.

“Our perk is go home and live your life,” said Colin Day, Chairman and CEO of iCIMS.

A great work-life balance, with emphasis on having a life, is at the center of company culture and it’s one of the reasons CEO Colin Day chose to build his new space at Bell Works, where life is as close as the ground floor.

The HR recruiting software provider, founded in 2000, helps employers find and hire job seekers. They offer a suite of scalable, cloud-based talent acquisition solutions that streamlines the entire hiring process for recruiters, hiring managers, and even the job candidates. iCIMS is one of the fastest-growing and largest providers in their space, and they’re one of the fastest-growing and largest tenants in Bell Works.

iCIMS says it’s offering employees a quality of life not driven by sushi bars and gimmicks. “We want people to be happy, healthy and grow at work.”

“We have been growing very quickly over the last several years, and we knew that we needed new office space that would fit our growing employee base and share our innovative culture,” says Day. “We thought about splitting up and having two separate campuses, but it’s always been our desire to keep everyone together. So we narrowed our search down to spaces in the local area that not only support a company of our size that is growing as fast as we are, but also one that is aligned with the culture we are creating. Bell Works checks every box!”

iCIMS, which outgrew its current Matawan, NJ location in just a few years, will have plenty space at its new digs set to open before year-end. The company has leased all of tower three, of the 2 million square foot building, made up of four towers. Teams of engineers, writers, developers, account executives, salespeople and more will have room to spread out, and grow up through additional floors in the tower. There will even be spaces for remote workers to work on site when needed.

Deb Walsh from iCIMS’ workplace services team says the new offices are designed to reflect the company’s corporate image with a nod to the pedigree of the historic building.

“The style, although forward thinking, reflects some of the history of Bell Works with advanced technology, mid-century modern flair and an industrial edge,” Walsh said. “Emphasis is placed on natural materials with enduring quality such as wood and glass. Each floor will be built around a central hub with a pantry and living area.”

Len Carella, VP of Infrastructure talks with Jed Michaelson, Director of Brand on a recent tour of Bell Works. Deb Walsh from iCIMS’ workplace services team is at the center.

For playfulness the company’s signature color, red, will pop throughout the spaces against fresh white backdrops. Other surfaces will have neutral finishes and an open ceiling will complement the original, concrete building construction.

But it’s what’s beyond the walls of the new office that most drew Day and his team to the space, the metroburb vibe.

“Although we are a leading tech company, we don’t see ourselves fitting the typical Silicon Valley tech model,” said Susan Vitale, Chief Marketing Officer of iCIMS. “At iCIMS, we really appreciate work-life balance, and we love that Bell Works has that work-life integration. We don't supply employees with breakfast, lunch and dinner because we want them to get out of the office. If our employees want to step out of the office, they can grab a cup of coffee and admire the beautiful outdoor scenery, check out the retail space, or hit the gym.

With city style amenities downstairs, iCIMS isn’t sending the subtle (or not so subtle) message of other tech companies, “Look, we’ve provided all your needs so you never have to leave.” It’s saying something entirely different (and refreshing). Work hard when you’re here and enjoy life when you’re not.

After signing its lease last year iCIMS held its annual holiday party in the Bell Works main atrium.

“Now at the end of the day if we want to go for happy hour, it’s not, ‘Where are we going and who’s driving,’ it’s, ‘Hey, I’ll meet you downstairs,’” Vitale said. “At Bell Works you don’t have to go very far to do more things outside of work.”

Which is exactly Ralph Zucker’s vision for the mini city, where life is within walking distance.

To move his company to Bell Works, with its Bell Labs legacy for innovation, is a dream for Day who has his own history with the building.

“This is more than a move for us. It’s more like a homecoming. Our funding founder, George Liou, worked in Bell Works for 10 years. And when Colin worked for George as a tech recruiter, he was recruiting people for this space,” Vitale said. “Now, he’s bringing his company of nearly 650 employees back to where it all started.”

The iCIMS c-suite team on lease signing day. Ronald Kasner, Chief Financial Officer; Adam Feigenbaum, Chief Customer Officer; Colin Day, CEO and President; Susan Vitale, Chief Marketing Officer; and Michael Wilczak, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development.

For the future, iCIMS says it has bought into Ralph’s vision and is looking forward to creating a much larger draw for tech talent to stay in NJ. The company aims to educate local job seekers that they don’t need to relocate to Silicon Valley, New York or Austin.

“New Jersey is a great place for technology. We have some of the most educated, intelligent people in the country, plus the history. Those people who worked for Bell Labs, they didn’t go anywhere. They’re part of the community and so are their kids,” Day said.

“If you work in tech you don’t have to go into the city or move across the country because there are fantastic opportunities right in our backyard.”

You can follow iCIMS’ journey to Bell Works on Facebook and Instagram.  

The DesignLab Opens at Bell Works as a Creative Coworking Space

“This is not just any building.”

Paola Zamudio, Founder of NPZ Style + Decor and Creative Director for Bell Works in Holmdel, NJ.

And she should know. Ralph Zucker, the visionary behind the Bell Labs metroburb, recently named its interior designer Paola Zamudio as Creative Director for the entire Bell Works project.

Zamudio’s charge is to use her formidable talent and expertise in design to help create a cohesive, mutually supportive culture at Bell Works unlike any other.

Which is one reason why she’s opening The DesignLab.

The DesignLab at Bell Works, a new coworking and open collaborative space, officially opens Thursday, July 13, though a few creatives have already staked out their desks.

Zamudio, founder of NPZ Style + Decor, felt that the Bell Works community needed a central hub where creatives could share space, encourage, support and motivate one another. And in this space, she sees a community of allies and partners gathering, and through their art, helping to create a culture as unique and inspirational to those in the Bell Works community as the building itself.

“The DesignLab will invite, welcome and support everyone at Bell Works who is a professional creative, people with an interest in how design shapes our minds, hearts and world,” says Zamudio, “and especially those who are working on projects in the building.

“The Lab is a coworking space where people can design their own schedule for office time, congregate with other designers in a space specifically for them, for people who think about spaces from a particular perspective, such as artists, designers and architects.”

United by Design

In addition to functioning as a more traditional coworking space for independent creatives, The DesignLab is also a place for Bell Works’ community members working on design/build projects to meet, collaborate and celebrate together. Already, Alexander Gorlin, lead architect for Bell Works, uses the space to meet with Paola, and other collaborative partners from IA | Interior Architects, Structure Tone Organization, Mancini Duffy and other firms who are working on different aspects of the building’s renovation.

Zamudio has copies of all the floor plans, samples and created mood boards for all the spaces within Bell Works. Her staff also maintains all records for design-related vendors and potential partners.

Eventually, Zamudio plans to launch a series of design talks that will bring design together with, “other very human interests and connect the dots between design and these other aspects of living, like design and food, and design and music,” she says.  

Activities like these -- and the addition of a Baldwin semi-concert grand piano into the atrium and inviting anyone to play -- are weaving bonds of mutual interest and enthusiasm among tenants and visitors. It a new innovation community coming online at Bell Works.

Zamudio is adamant that the human element of design be the center of everything the Lab and the larger community produce.

“We are not creating in a vacuum without a human component,” she said. “Everything we do is about the humans who are here and who will interact with each other inside and because of this building. So if we take it to another level, this is not just an office but it’s THE office. It’s an experience that people value, the ability to work here -- the feeling you have when you’re here.”

This feeling includes a certain awe you can only feel when you stand in the physical presence of the place, but it also includes an ineffable vibe that uses the art of design to provoke a universal human experience -- that of appreciating beauty in all its diversity.

Zamudio is deliberate in how she curates design in every aspect of the building’s interior spaces. International designers and manufacturers from companies like Moroso in Italy, Bolon in Sweden, and Maderas Collective in Nicaragua, are represented in offices and common spaces alongside award-winning US designers like KimballOffice.

In fact, KimballOffice provided the furniture for NPZ`s new DesignLab at Bell Works, specifically, pieces from the Daniel Korb line. In a creative collaboration with Zamudio, every piece of furniture was carefully defined to reflect upon today’s and tomorrow’s needs in one of the most exciting locations on the East Coast.

And not only is the DesignLab bringing inspired design like Korb’s into the metroburb, the Bell Works project itself is inspiring new interior design trends, like this one-of-a-kind chair designed for Bell Works by Ron Arad, manufactured by Moroso in Italy and featured during Salon Mobile in Milan.

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Past Meets Future, by Design

Design both unifies and distinguishes people and places. It creates community through shared spaces.

“Creating this new community of people who think and dream bigger and bolder than ever before, that’s part of why I love working at NPZ’s Bell Works office and being part of this,” says Shayna Vrabel, a member of Zamudio’s team. “There’s so much history here, but walk around and you can see the future, too.”

The 2 million square foot building was once a main research hub of the legendary innovation leader, Bell Labs, back when the communications giant was reinventing how people communicate with each other and interact with the world near and far.

John Bardeen, William Shockley and Walter Brattain - 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics, “For their researches on semiconductors and their discovery of the transistor effect

Though the landmark structure, easily the size of a small downtown center, is no longer owned by a corporation with a telecom monopoly, the building continues to attract people with the same entrepreneurial, adventuring spirit that was the hallmark of scientists like John Bardeen, William Shockley and Walter Brattain.

Inside the glass walls and throughout the bustling metroburb, design-inspired professionals are at the heart of a growing community that is still shaping the future of how we work, live and play together.  

And those guys are now these guys!

The iCIMS Lab Team, checking out their new headquarters at Bell Works

And these guys!

WorkWave first group shot in their new home at Bell Works

And these guys,

The Vydia team power-lunching in Cafe Bell, right smack in the heart of Bell Works

This new generation of innovators and industry leaders is reaping the benefits of the DesignLab every time they sit down to work, take a short break, or walk outside to enjoy some sunshine.

Come visit! The DesignLab is located in a center office on the front facing side of Building 1.

For more about how art and design influenced the character and culture of the Bell Works building, read Eero Saarinen’s Bell Labs Complex Comes Back to Life in Surface Magazine, and When Albers Met Saarinen: Alexander Gorlin Reimagines an Eero Saarinen Landmark, in Interior Design.


Haute couture may be the inspiration of the fashion world, but it’s the prêt-à-porter that drives the market - clothing that’s on the rack and ready to wear. In the office real estate market, the pre-built office space is that ‘ready to wear garment’ -- designed to get a business off the ground quickly, and with style.

Pre-built office spaces leverage the best of art and design and are home to dozens of startups and entrepreneurs looking for more than four walls and wifi. They’re searching for an experience that values their unique energy and nomadic work style. Large, corporate headquarters and research labs are also moving in, choosing Bell Works because of its legacy of innovation, collaborative spirit and developer Ralph Zucker’s vision for a metroburb.

While tenants benefit from the services of Somerset Development’s expert team of architects, construction professionals and designers to plan and execute their renovations, the pre-built offices, 21 in all, owe their distinctive energy and beauty to Paola Zamudio, founder of NPZ Style + Décor and Creative Director of Bell Works. Her work includes a portfolio of high-end design and a love affair with midcentury modern.

Each pre-built office space is its own work of art. Zamudio creates moodboards for each space and represent a distinct aesthetic including color palette, furnishings and surfaces. The Nero Light inspiration board below is just one example.

“In the beginning, it was hard to visualize being here, for all of us,” Zamudio said. “There was nothing here that spoke to the vision of our future. So we looked back to the past, to Saarinen and the Bell Labs’ ETA art communities that spoke to themes of collaboration, cross functional spaces and disciplines.”

Zamudio’s Trend Forecasting degree and experience makes her an expert in knowing what new concepts in space, furnishings and decorations are possible so she can bring these innovations and perspectives into conversations with clients to help them design the most meaningful space possible for them to accomplish their goals.


Office space at vi Hubs, the company that manages coworking space in Bell Works.

“Our work at NPZ for Bell Works is about people, the community of humans that are choosing Bell Works,” Zamudio said. “We provide an environment that nurtures creative, collaborative aspects of human nature and attracts those who are comfortable bringing their expertise in business and their creative natures together.”

Jay Bhatti, Founder & CTO of BrandProject is a tenant in pre-built space.

“Bell Works, the building itself, is a great place to have visitors -- your clients, partners -- because of the history of the building and its powerful architectural presence. I like my pre-built office because it’s everything I need and it’s easy,” Bhatti said. “After paying my membership, all I do is show up to work in this amazing space and everything else is taken care of. As far as the look and feel, it’s got great design elements that take advantage of all this natural light. I love that.”

Listen to Ralph Zucker talk about office space at Bell Works in the new video, Bell Works Spaces - Office 


The Metroburb: A Slice of Urbanity in Suburban New Jersey

“A metroburb is a metropolis in suburbia. It has a gravitational pull of it’s own. It has everything that you would find in a larger metropolis office, retail, residential hospitality, health, wellness, fitness - Main street USA. Whether you want to go to bank or the dry cleaners want or go hang out in an indoor urban park, you want to go out to an incredible rooftop and have a drink with friends, grab a cup of coffee. All these things coming together, there’s your slice of urbanity in a great suburban location.”  - Ralph Zucker, president of Somerset Development and visionary behind Bell Works.

Fascinated by architects and builders who were re-imagining megalithic structures abandoned in the suburbs as corporations moved their operations back into the cities or overseas — Ralph Zucker spent more than 10 years imagining and lobbying for the opportunity to bring Bell Labs back to its former status as a thrumming, bustling center for innovation, community and inspiration for the world at-large.

Zucker and Master Architect Alex Gorlin were specifically inspired by a trip to Italy to see the Fiat Lingotto factory built in the 1920s and renovated by Renzo Piano in the 1980s. Piano’s successful transformation of the Fiat building into a multiuse center, which maintained the architectural character of the building would be the framework for the redevelopment of Bell Works as a live, work, play community.

“We all used to live in cities and then we filtered into suburbs, literally living in isolation,” Zucker. “We’d sit home and say I’m bored, I want to go somewhere. We craved the life of the city. Even as we want to be in the open spaces with nature around us, we want to be where people are.”

Our designer floor in motion. See the time lapse.

This is truly one of the world’s great interiors, its 100-foot-width recalling the Baths of Caracalla in Rome and Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, the Crystal Palace of London, and that great pedestrian thoroughfare, Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. Not since working at I.M. Pei & Partners have I been involved in a project of this magnitude, where perspective begins to play tricks with the eye. From a distance, people seem like ants scurrying around. When someone is close by, the vastness retreats into the illusion of a flat stage set." Alexander Gorlin

In Gorlin's 2015 article for Interior Design magazine, the principal architect behind Bell Works talks about his charge to facilitate the transformation an abandoned hub of technological innovation into the Holmdel, NJ metroburb. Acknowledging the vision of Somerset Development president, Ralph Zucker, Gorlin focuses on how his understanding of Josef Albers and the Bauhaus helped him achieve the feat of successful, adaptive reuse in the former Bell Labs building.

He and his team needed to preserve the gloriousness and the 'feel' of the original mid-century masterpiece designed by architect Eero Saarinen while marrying the visceral reaction so common in people who interact with the building to practical upgrades necessary to provide the spaces 21st-century companies, retailers, and hospitality professionals demand. Challenging? Yes. But the results are no less than spectacular. Read more.


Access Knowledge: Holmdel Public Library Learning Center Coming to Bell Works

If you’ve got a tricky knee that tells you when rain is on it’s way, you know a little bit of what it’s like to be a Holmdel librarian.

Karen Nealis, director of the Holmdel Public Library since 2004 has been making the best of it in cramped, windowless quarters where programs and resources are limited by the space. And one thing she will not miss when the library moves to brand new digs at Bell Works this fall is the humidity.

“I can’t wait to move,” she says. “It will be great to stop ‘braille-ing the books’ as a way to tell what the weather’s like. We turn to each other now… ‘Wet must be raining.’ Soon, we’ll have big beautiful windows that allow us to look out and see exactly what we’re in for when we leave the building!”

While Nealis is lighthearted about the looming logistical challenges of moving her entire operation from the basement of the Holmdel Municipal Center to a prime location in Bell Works, she is absolutely serious as she details the benefits of moving into the former home of innovation giant Bell Labs.


According to Nealis, Holmdel residents, the Bell Works community, people who live in Monmouth County — everyone will get added value when the doors open later this year. “New, better-configured spaces will give us the ability to respond to the current and future needs of our community-at-large as well as fulfill long-standing requests from Holmdel residents for improved programs and offerings,” she says.


“We’ll be offering a variety of improved services and amenities to our Holmdel and Monmouth County residents, but also to our host community at Bell Works,” says Nealis. “Right now, we get dozens of requests each week for research help from individuals as well as small and medium-sized businesses. We’re a valuable resource now. When we’re better equipped, with more accommodating spaces in a more accessible location — there’s no way to predict the demand for services.”

Here’s a snapshot of what patrons will enjoy in the new Holmdel Library Learning Center:

  • Free, on-site access to digital research and reference tools such as:,  Morningstar Investment Research Center, EBSCOhost journals, Hoover’s Online, Value Line, Small Business Reference Center, JSTOR Academic Journals, Weiss Insurance Ratings, as well as subscription-based resources for law, medicine, arts, entertainment, employment, grants and politics
  • Free, on-site access to digital editions of over 100 magazines, both current editions and archives;
  • Comfortable, welcoming lounge areas with plenty of charging stations;
  • A well-curated, relevant print collection;

“I honestly think people will grow to depend on this space.”

The Library and Learning Center will also be home to a permanent exhibit honoring the legacy of innovation at Bell Labs and AT&T.

This ambitious project has required extraordinary commitment and action by Holmdel Township and its Library leadership. Collaboration with the team at Bell Works has also been important. “The vision and the encouragement to make it a reality — from the architects at Gorlin (Alexander Gorlin) and Arcari+Iovino Architects (Anthony Iovino)  , and including Mr. Zucker and Somerset Development — they have been tremendously effective in working with us at the Library as well as (Holmdel) the Township leadership to make this happen,” Nealis says.

Earlier this year, Somerset Development presented a check for one million dollars to Holmdel Township’s mayor, Greg Buontempo, as part of their commitment to the project.

Building tenants will be issued a guest pass to use the library, and all New Jersey residents are eligible to apply for a free internet pass to access all the online materials. Holmdel residents, including new neighbors moving into the Toll Brothers communities being built adjacent to the Bell Works building, have borrowing privileges as well as access to online resources.

Nealis is also looking forward to launching a series of academic programs, currently impossible due to space restrictions, such as after-school tutoring programs and youth study groups.

“Holmdel residents have been petitioning for years for these services to be integrated into the library. My staff and I are thrilled that, soon, they can stop petitioning and simply sign up.”

Lights On in Holmdel. Mid-Century Icon Gets Around the Clock Attention.

By the time most tenants at Bell Works push through the revolving doors to start their day, dozens of tradespeople, still wearing their hardhats, are already eating lunch in the cafe. Transforming the 80’s interiors of Bell Labs into the modern, dynamic spaces for the current and future tenants at Bell Works  is a full-time endeavor. “Tradespeople are here nearly around the clock,” says Michael Farrell, account executive and on-site manager for Structure Tone, the international firm tasked with overseeing the entire construction operation at Bell Works.

Structure Tone is at the leading edge of construction management, with extensive experience with big-vision-large-scale projects, but it’s Farrell and his team who are on-site and responsible for coordinating the day-to-day building trades operations and construction work at Bell. “Sometimes, there’s as much going on here at night as there is during the day,” he said. “The first day shift comes in at 7:30 a.m. and heads out around 3:30 or 4 p.m. Then the first night shift of workers come in around 6 p.m. and the last shift wraps up about 6 a.m. the next day.”

Me and My Shadow: Two tradespeople working in the building at night. “We do most of the demolition and noisy work at night, when there’s less likelihood of disturbing any of the current tenants,” said Michael Farrell of Structure Tone.

It’s an impressive feat of organization, coordinating all the moving parts needed to keep Bell Works growing. The work required for scheduling and record-keeping alone are Herculean tasks. Farrell says it’s made much easier thanks to the incredibly professional, cordial and hardworking team that has come together on the project. “As construction manager, I’m fortunate to be working with great professionals, including teams from The Garibaldi Group, Alexander Gorlin Architects, Mancini Duffy, NPZ Design and our principal engineers, Becht Engineering, and Stantec. And of course, there’s Somerset Development. Ralph (Zucker) and David (Schreiber) and Tom (Michnewicz) and everyone in their offices have made this whole enterprise, not only possible, but actually, fun. It’s a dream team, really.”

View from the roof, looking straight at the iconic Transistor sculpture commanding the horizon.

As the photos demonstrate, the interior of the iconic masterpiece by renowned architect Eero Saarinen looks different every day as workers retrofit the older, secluded offices into modern open workspaces, complete with everything a tenant needs to take full advantage of improved work practices and efficiencies thanks to technology.

Acacia Communication — under construction.

A more ‘finished’ look at Acacia.

And these transformations are happening while companies like Spirent and MetTel -- as well as boutique firms sharing coworking space in Vi Innovation Hubs like Nicholl Field Design and Silver Style Pictures are all carrying on their workday. At least half a dozen teams are actively working on site and Farrell and his team coordinate everything from the demo of old spaces, to installation of new electric and plumbing, to delivery and setup of furniture for each space. It’s a balancing act; new tenants are excited to move in and current tenants need to be able to continue their work in a fully functional, professional space -- without significant disruption.



A crew of over 250 people, including management and tradespeople, are completely overhauling six floors of office, retail, restaurant and meeting space is being completely overhauled. These professionals are work nearly around the clock, six to seven days a week many weeks and nearly every day during the year. Structure Tone has been on site since the end of June  2016, and since taking over as construction manager, the pace has picked up, substantially. Michael’s 16-18 person team works, “Hand in hand -- in real time -- with the developer and the real estate teams,” he says. “Everything is coordinated and -- so far -- everything is coming in on time and on budget.”

Working on the roof. Teams of tradespeople work around the clock, nearly every day of the year, on the inside and outside of the building.

And there are a couple of things that have worked in favor of the goals for being ‘on time and on budget’. For one thing, Farrell says that the symmetry of the mid-century architectural notable is brilliant in its elegant simplicity, “It doesn’t take long to wrap your head around the bones of the place.”

Several tenants – like iCIMS – are choosing to leave some or all of the concrete exposed in their offices. “They love the character of the building and the look,” Farrell said.

“Good bones” is how the project engineers and architects describe the building, designed by superstar architect Eero Saarinen.

In fact, the building is is up for consideration for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, and to qualify there are some very specific guidelines to follow as the structure is rehabbed. “Honestly, that’s one of the aspects of this job that’s proven how amazing Ralph is as a leader” Farrell said. “He’s so dedicated to preserving and honoring the legacy of this building...he’s asked his team to move mountains and work with us to make that happen.”

Then, there is all the extra time and resources necessary to coordinate the salvaging and reuse of many of the materials. “It comes with its challenges,” Farrell said, “but from a sustainability perspective, it’s well worth it.”

“In order to qualify for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, we need to preserve exact dimensions, placement and materials in several key parts of the building.” – Michael Farrell of Structure Tone

As Farrell walks through the atrium, he watches workers on ladders, moving around in future tenant spaces, working on wiring or walking through the building end to end in pairs talking to each other about the next step of their project. “One of the best things about this project, I think, is that many of the people working on and in the building are people who live right in Monmouth County. This isn’t just another job for them. It’s personal. The work they do here makes their home community a better place to live and work and that’s important to them.”

Whenever possible, crews are salvaging and reusing materials, part of the ongoing commitment by Somerset Development to sustainable practices in new construction at Bell Works.



This increased activity at the metroburb in Holmdel, NJ, is sparking strong reaction from people who’ve followed the Bell Works project from the very beginning.

Lynn Septoff, a member of the David Ellis Events team who was on-site in early 2016 to help set up Cafe Bell, came back recently when the company hosted a pop up event. She was overwhelmed by the changes, “I was here, maybe a year ago ago, and it felt so different. It wasn’t a ghost town, but there were mostly construction workers and just a few people hanging out in the space where we were setting up the cafe.”

Now the cafe is busy from early morning until 2 p.m. with tradespeople, tenants and visitors. During the lunchtime rush the line is sometimes 20 people deep. “Back then I thought, ‘I don’t know if they can pull this off.’ But now -- Wow!”

Bell Works has marched through its early life as a concept -- an inspiration -- and is firmly engaged in the next phase of its growth -- the hustling, bustling, buzzing reality of Bell Works, working.

And what’s next? “Crews are working now on constructing a rooftop terrace -- it’s going to be gorgeous,” Farrell said. “We’re upgrading all the entrances soon. Also happening now, the lower level, which we’re calling ‘event space’ -- we’re rehabbing the conference center and lecture hall. Stay tuned. It’s only going to get more interesting.”

New Jersey is Growing a Metroburb - Here’s What it Means for You

2016 Major League Hacking Annual #Hackathon with Viacom interns, iCIMS and many others. 

There is a shift in the suburban landscape as millennials and other established professionals search for perfection -- the best of urban life including walkable neighborhoods and easy access to routine destinations like grocery stores, clinics and restaurants -- all in a suburban location that offers plenty of what’s best in suburbia like trees, hiking trails, and lots of open space. At Bell Works, Somerset Development’s Ralph Zucker is turning that dream into reality for thousands of local residents and businesses.

Set back in the trees of Holmdel, New Jersey on the site of the former Bell Labs complex, Bell Works is taking shape as a tiny city neighborhood housed in a 2 million square foot building.

“It’s the same size as the Empire State Building, just on its side,” says Zucker.

Somerset is preserving much of the architectural legacy of Eero Saarinen’s mid-century masterpiece with a European style piazza inside it’s glass walls. It’s five stories of office space are quickly filling up with established tech companies McCann Systems and iCIMS, as well as plenty of pioneering start ups like NVIDIA and WorkWave.

But it’s the ground floor that’s likely to change the way New Jerseyans live.

NPZ Style + Decor co-working space for vi Innovation Hub

Crews are working day and night here (especially at night), renovating spaces for new tenants right alongside offices already occupied by start-ups and firms in marketing, architecture, technology and entertainment. They’re also rehabbing common spaces that tenants and the public alike are invited to enjoy.

Just outside the affectionately dubbed Big Bang Cafe, construction crews work to build an expansive rooftop patio that overlooks Japanese gardens originally designed by American landscape architects Sasaki, Walker & Associates. Inside along the quarter mile pedestrian walkway between the connected buildings, workers swap out another 1980’s panel wall for the clear glass partitions that will be retail storefronts, restaurants, bars, a coffee shop, even a hair stylist. There’s likely to be a doctor’s office and a daycare, too, along with a gym and maybe your lawyer’s and accountant’s office.

What’s happening at Bell Works, says Zucker, the visionary behind the project, is a metroburb.

“Metroburb”, a term coined by the New Urbanist movement, is an urban hub, a core, a little metropolis in a suburban location. Zucker describes it to visitors like this, “A large-scale mixed use building, with great access, office, retail, entertainment, hospitality, residential, health, wellness, fitness, everything you would find in a metropolis but in a great suburban location. Think Red Bank, Morristown and New Brunswick.”

Other metroburbs, like Huntington Beach, California -- Surf City -- are proof of that the concept thrives. Established metroburbs boast a very high percentage of white collar workers (74% of total workforce on average) and some of the lowest crime rates and best performing schools (The Demand Institute). Metroburb communities are stable, safe and attractive places to live and work, constantly generating and attracting opportunity.

And millennials aren’t the only influential demographic demanding a better life balance and more effective integration of work and home responsibilities. Take Christian DiMare, Founder of Bridge Technology and one of the newest members of the Bell Works community. DiMare recruits highly skilled tech talent and places them with industry leaders who are pushing business forward through innovative digital platforms. He works with both millennials and veteran professionals with established reputations as highly valued employees, placing them in highly desirable job opportunities.

“These are people who can pick and choose where they work, and with whom they work,” says DiMare. “More and more, they’re coming to me with aspirations that include not spending three hours a day commuting to the City (New York). Oh, they still want all the opportunity and the excitement of working in a place like New York, but they want it closer to a home that offers them a chance to live around parks, with views of trees and the chance for backyard barbeques.”

And that’s why Bell Works is winning over tenant after tenant -- by offering a near perfect combination of urban and suburban assets. Even local residents, some of whom had serious misgivings when the Bell Works project was first introduced, are becoming more and more excited as the project moves from concept boards and CGI presentations to a reality they can walk through and see in action. In the October 20, 2016, digital edition of The Journal, Eric Hinds, former mayor of Holmdel, affirmed this, saying, “Real companies with real jobs are coming together to create this new ‘live-work-play’ compound that will allow people to have great jobs without having to commute an hour to get to work.”

Jonathan Foster, Design Build Project Manager at Nicholl Field Design, a tenant of vi Collaboration Hub’s coworking space at Bell Works, describes the metroburb appeal using a time-honored liet motif -- food, “There is a new planning standard for compressing the distance of live and work and the private sector is following suit with retrofitting spaces like malls. The Pad development that serves the typical hamburger isn’t the desired choice for professionals. Lunch breaks don’t happen often or for a set amount of time. That’s where the convenience comes from, not a crappy hamburger.”

It’s just a coffee stand now inside the Bell Works Cafe but Booskerdoo will grow into a full coffee bar this summer to serve large crowds. And they’re going to need to. Companies like iCIMS aren’t stocking their new office with coffee pots or cafeterias, instead says Deborah Walsh, workplace services executive for the company, CEO Colin Day wants his employees out and about meeting other people when they need a caffeine break.

According to Nancy Erickson, Executive Managing Director of Retail Sales with Colliers International, New Jersey, other tenants are following suit, foregoing in-office kitchens and coffee stations to promote networking and interaction. Bell Works will support this with as many as 2,000 seats scattered throughout common areas where workers can get a change of scenery while they work on their laptop or have meetings in a casual setting.

“The whole building will be open,” she said.

Where completely open offices have failed for some, the open access of the airport sized building at Bell Works - and the built-in city feel - is something Zucker knows is the future of work.

“Millennials are no longer chained to their desks,” he said, “and we can’t force them to go to mind-numbing office parks. We no longer work 9-5, and it has changed the fabric of our society.”

In an interview with NPR this summer Chris Sullens CEO of WorkWave, and one of Bell Works’ first tech lessees, said it was this exact quality that made him choose to move his local software company which employees many millennials.

“They want to work with great technology. They want to work with great people. And they want to do it in an environment that they like to come to work in,” Sullens told NPR’s Joel Rose. “From our standpoint, we get that feel and vibe here at Bell Works.”

Cafe Bell at Bell Works is Bustling for Businesses, And the Public

It’s 7:30 a.m. and the aroma of roasting chicken and fresh soup turns heads as people begin to walk in the doors of Bell Works. You can also smell eggs, bacon and Booskerdoo coffee. It’s still quiet, except for the sounds of Sarah Shields and Richard Carroll moving behind the display counter, in between the open kitchen oven and refrigerators, cooking and getting set up for the day.

Welcome to Cafe Bell.

When you walk into the main doors of Bell Works, you can see the bustle of people around the Cafe’s glass cases and counter at the far end of the building. Some stop to talk with Sarah and Richard, co-managers of Cafe Bell, trading casual greetings or catching up on the latest Bell happenings.

Cafe Bell is in the center of the hum and buzz of the place.  

Open since February 2016, it wasn’t long before Bell Works tenants began to refer to the space, affectionately, as The Big Bang Cafe — a salute to the iconic building’s former life as Bell Labs and the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation that led to the Big Bang Theory. During the first few months it was open, Sarah greeted every person by name as they walked through on their way to their offices. Now, Sarah has to pause and think sometimes before coming up with a name. During the last nine months, the traffic into the building has increased exponentially. Quiet time is the exception rather than the rule, now.

It’s no accident — the Cafe’s place at the heart of this emerging mini city nestled in the suburbs. (Here they call it a metroburb.) Capitalizing on the very powerful role that sharing a meal plays in building community, the cafe’s physical location was a very deliberate decision on the part of the design team to give a space for the Bell Works community to come together to support and inspire each other. Under the aegis of David Ellis Events, the cafe is both an anchor and a magnet in the Bell Works metroburb concept.

As the lunch crowd begins to pick up near noontime, pioneers and start ups like Springboard Public Relations and Wisdom + Craft (a UX/UI agency) stand with established innovators like McCann Systems and Symbolic IO and trade weather reports, casual banter that turns into animated storytelling about weekend errands and pastimes. Often, that turns into sharing a table for lunch and, somehow, that seamlessly segues into recommendations for meeting other professionals who are working on similar projects and goals. Phone numbers and emails are exchanged before the budding colleagues take off, back to their respective desks.

David and Sarah see it every day. Cafe Bell is one of the places in Bell Works where serendipity shakes hands with opportunity and new ideas are sparked — and partnerships begin.

Cafe Bell is open from 7:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. and serves breakfast and lunch to more than one hundred people each day. Most are working at Bell. They’re entrepreneurs. They’re team members at one of more than a dozen innovation start ups and established industry leaders in the building. They’re members of the construction teams working nearly around the clock to rehab office space and transform common spaces. Maybe its you and me. Cafe Bell is open to the public.

Visitors may enter the building through the front door and sign in at the guest book. Though much of the building is under construction (and thus, off limits) visitors can spent time in the grand atrium and hang out in the cafe as long as they want.

Soon, Sarah and Richard will be bringing on another full-time staff member. As Bell Works signs more and more new businesses, traffic at the “Big Bang” Cafe has picked up. Some afternoons, the line wraps around the counter as regulars and new customers wait to put in their order for one of the fresh, stacked sandwiches, or a salad, soup or one of several mouthwatering sides.  

“We’re working on adding hot items to the menu,” Richard says. “Meatloaf, all kinds of parmesans and curries. Something special for all tastes.” Daily Specials are posted on a big white board and change depending on which fresh ingredients Richard and Sarah source each day. “It’s all fresh and it’s made by us — right here— to order,” Richard asserts. “Our goal is to provide quality food and quick service in a familiar, warm and welcoming environment.”

And it is warm, and it is welcoming…by design. Paola Zamudio, owner of NPZ Syle & Decor, chose each detail for Cafe Bell with intent, and a commitment to serving the community well through each stage of growth at Bell Works. There is a space for every mood. All furnishings and arrangements are part of a purposeful plan to cultivate a feeling of inspiration that honors the building’s past as the center of innovation for the entire world.

“People who work here, they enjoy getting up and walking out to the cafe area which looks more like the great room in a lodge or a resort than any cafe you might think of,” Sarah comments. “If they’re looking for some quiet time alone at a table with their laptop, they can find that. If they’re looking for a more traditional, interactive experience with co-workers, friends or a potential project partner, we have tables for those people, too.”

If long, family-style tables and smaller, more intimate round tables don’t call to you on any particular day, there are also couches you can curl into and sit looking out of the enormous windows at the trees.You can watch the birds perching and swooping by in every season.

In addition to Cafe Bell’s breakfast and lunch service, under the umbrella of David Ellis Events, Sarah and Richard also work with clients to design and execute corporate events and charity galas in the Bell Works building. Both managers have an impressive background in the culinary arts and the food services industry. Sarah came to Cafe Bell from Somerset where she managed the cafe in the Somerset YMCA. Richard, a 25 year veteran of culinary services and a long-time private chef and caterer with David Ellis, was most recently working with a short list of exclusive clients in Montauk, NY.  

From office lunches to community events welcoming hundreds of guests, Richard and Sarah work with their David Ellis Events team to provide memorable experiences for every occasion.

During the last two months, Sarah and Richard have both seen more and more people touring the building to see what’s going on. “They’re excited to see the work in progress,” Sarah observes. Often, they stop and get something to eat, taking time to sit and talk about the future of the building and how Bell Works is bringing the iconic architectural masterpiece built by Eero Saarinen back into the spotlight as a magnet for business — including retail and entertainment.

The building's reinventor Ralph Zucker of Somerset Development, envisions the open spaces inside the building as a public street, and it’s atrium a piazza where people can get together and meet each other, whether they work in an office here or shop in one of its future stores or just live in the community.

“Our vision has always been to give Bell Works back to the people, to open it as a public space,” Zucker said. “Typical office buildings say, ‘Keep out.” Our philosophy is, ‘Come in.’ It’s not just a place for tenants. It’s a place for everybody.”

Richard smiles and looks around the room during a brief lull in service.  “We have quite a few old Bell Lab employees who come in to eat with us. They like to check on what’s happening now and what’s happening next. They walk up to see the space where their labs used to be. They sit here in the cafe and talk with their old partners and friends about where they are now and what they’re working on. They’re all so impressed and happy to see the place coming alive again, getting busier and busier. It’s amazing.”

Debunking the Mystery Behind Motivating Millennials

Jenna Gaudio (second from left) with her former intern Lauren Masterson (at left) and Leann Burns and Albert Holguin, current Vydia Interns. Masterson was one of Gaudio's first interns at Yashi who rose through the ranks and is now head of marketing at video production company Postcreatives in Asbury Park.

You’ve heard the stereotypes of Millennials, that can’t use a land line, that they need prizes for showing up. Tough to manage, difficult to to motivate, and lacking in loyalty,  just a few claims against them. But are they accurate? And now that this generational workforce has flooded the office, how do you get them to be productive? Bean bag chairs? A French bulldog for the office?

For expert Millennial advice we turned to Jenna Gaudio, director of marketing at Vydia,a high tech startup located at Bell Works, and a member of vi Collaboration Hub the coworking space here. Vydia provides musicians the ability to monetize, promote, and distribute their music video content. It’s also home to Millennials whom Gaudio hires, trains and manages with success. She doesn’t just deal with this generation in the workforce, she embraces it.

“Don’t discredit the potential of your entry level workers, including your interns,” Gaudio said who previously worked for the ad tech company Yashi, where curating young talent was key to helping build (and sell) the company.

“I quickly learned after onboarding my first ‘dream team’ of interns that they had a lot to offer and could contribute in big ways if presented with the right opportunity. Given the right training and attention, they successfully converted to full time employees upon graduation and quickly rose through the ranks. Those that put in the extra work and showed outstanding performance even took on management positions within the span of a year or two.”

Here are Gaudio’s insights on how to hire, retain and motivate Millennials:

Every single employee is an investment. Aside from salary, the cost of each team member is increased by the price tag of recruitment, onboarding, training, equipment, team perks and ongoing industry education. To minimize that cost, turnover clearly must become the enemy.

But retention tactics aren’t going to improve by blaming a misunderstood generation, but rather tapping into what actually motivates them to stay. To continue to benefit from the allstars you handpicked to work for you, there are a few things you need to understand about this generation.  

What they want: creative comfortable collaborative work environment

What will make them leave: confinement and segregation from the action

Look around. Do you feel inspired at work, or do you feel like you’re in jail? Setting up an work environment that makes people happy will yield many desirable results with your employees. Bright, motivating surroundings trigger inspired work output. Comfortable chairs encourage endurance for those that produce results in front of a phone or computer all day. Coffee and tea make the afternoon slump more productive and healthy snacks will prevent your staff from conceding to a empty stomach in lieu of staying late to get ahead of a few projects.

Seating arrangements are important to. There’s nothing worse then being out of the loop and having zero pulse on what’s going on with the company because your workstation is isolated. Collaborative setups stimulate conversation and a collaborative culture. When everyone is more accessible problems get figured out faster, brainstorming adds insight in making better decisions, and a couple minutes of football talk Monday morning, or watching the latest viral video helps decompress the stress of powering through the week. Maybe private cubicles and fluorescent lights were the standard for previous generations, but with modern companies iterating on the work environments of Google and Apple, it’s not hard to find a place you look forward to spending your 9-5.

As Vydia’s CEO plans out the design of our new office, he’s mindfully designed an office that gives the illusion of being outside (you should see our floor to ceiling windows)  with collaborative work stations on grass-like flooring, rustic furniture made of wood and lots of bright, creative colors. The office will have Silicon Valley-like supplies like walls covered in idea paint and a variety of seating and workspace options to fit the project and position that makes you feel most productive. Put some thought into making your workplace more welcoming and you’re on your way to welcoming a loyal Millennial workforce.

What they want: efficient time management 

What will make them leave: boredom

Millennials get criticized for their never ending multitasking, but it's a premium quality that employers search for when hiring new talent. The number one way to kill multitasking momentum is lack of purpose and boredom. Analyze the capability and competency of each person and make sure you are maximizing it. This doesn’t mean fill their time with busy work. There is a stigma that Millennials think they are too good for small tasks or they deserve more than they’ve earned, but give your employees a fair and balanced workload of necessary tedious tasks and assignments that challenge and require personal input, and you’ll be amazing at how well they perform.

Vydia is growing quickly in all departments so everyone needs to be a self-starter, including the interns. We communicate ideas, progress and completed tasks through Trello boards. First thing in the morning, I’ll set the interns up with several tasks, prioritize them and check back in when I get notified that they’ve made progress or completed a task or two. I make sure that they have a well-balanced plate of responsibilities and that they understand the importance and impact of each project they work on. If you’re not giving them enough interesting responsibilities at work, you can guarantee they spend their days dreaming of their next job.

What they want: updated technology 

What will make them leave: resistance to optimization

You set goals and benchmarks for your employees and you hire the people you think can achieve them. Your employees choose to accept this mission with the understanding that you will set them up for success. Providing the right tools and technology are an absolute MUST DO if you plan on keeping Millennial talent. If you don’t know what the latest technology is then it’s time you utilize your new Millennial talent to show you.

I thought I was well read and connected on the latest technology, but it was my interns that pointed out my lack of perspective when Snapchat broke onto the scene. I joked about the juvenile concept at first, but once they explained the upside of video as a fast and dataless communication medium, inclusive of video moments and messages from friends and family, nearly in real-time, I began to see it as tool, not just a Millennial novelty.

That opened me up to its potential as a platform for professional and amature journalism. Now I was getting a front row experience of political debates and exotic vacations. Snapchat’s use of video is a perfect example of how video disrupted the digital landscape and we (the over 25 crowd) didn’t even see its full potential. It was our interns who educated us.

Distributing old, dirty computers with easily infected operating systems, riddled with out-of-date software that lack proper easy interoffice communication won’t just hurt your Millennials’ motivation. It will hamper your profitability by self sabotaging your chance to optimize your entire team. Simply asking new employees what kind of technology they prefer and fulfilling their reasonable requests shows that your support and motivates them to give you their best work.

What they want: a boss who is a respectable mentor 

What will make them leave: negligence and lack of growth opportunity

Offering a job and starting salary isn’t enough to have this generation’s workers churn increasing workloads week after week. The stereotype that Millennials think they deserve a promotion before putting in the work is false, and a clear indication that you’re not managing their expectations and needs properly.

Millennials are educated, motivated young people that want to know where they stand, how they can improve and what it will take for them to grab onto that next rung on the ladder. Giving them a job function and disappearing will make Millennials feel like they lack visibility in the company. Micromanaging them makes them feel like you don’t trust their judgement and capabilities. Providing timely feedback on projects and honest performance tips keep Millennials on the right track and feeling like the job you’ve given them is helping them grow personally and professionally.

As a manager, I like to earn the trust of my employees by showing them that I can relate to them and that I was once in their shoes. I illustrate mistakes I’ve already made so they don’t have to. I make myself accessible if they have questions that are stalling their work progress and make sure they know that I care about their personal and professional growth.

If they don’t feel the magic and are lacking motivation, I let them know I’m willing to help them find their purpose, but if they don’t see it here then they should chase those dreams. No need to hold on to something that’s not a win-win for everyone.

What they want: transparency and credibility

What will make them leave: empty incentives

Incentives are a great way to yield better results, but empty promises equal high turnover. No one wants to work for someone they don’t trust. An enjoyable environment and proper perks are great, but making sure your staff feels valued and respected is the only way to keep them long term. The internet exists, which means your employees know what the average salary is, they also know what kind of perks and benefits other companies provide.

Each company is different so you don’t have to offer everything that everyone does, but figure out what your value proposition is to your employees. Communicate what is important, explain your expectations, and be honest when you have issues with them. Also, make sure you compensate them for the amount of work they churn out, which can include a combination of salary, benefits, equity, education and fitness programs, flexible hours, catered meals, etc.

The most important part of your offerings is follow through. If the company falls on tough times and culture activities have to get rolled back until revenue efforts come through, be transparent with your team and they will respect you more for it.

What they want: like-minded colleagues

What will make them leave: company culture that doesn't align with their personal values  

Working for a company that has the right culture is one of the most important factors assessed  when a Millennial picks a job. We will spend over a third of our life at work and no one wants to spend that much time avoiding crude colleagues and and cringing at a lack of company guidelines. The company you work for is an extension of who you are as a person, the same way your employees are brand ambassadors for your company. Morals and values matter and vary person to person. Make sure your team works well together. Don’t hold on to bad seeds that breed a toxic, negative environment.

I’ve found that both big and small companies will put you in a position that ask you to do something outside the scope of work that was on your offer letter. Having a workforce that enjoys the team win more than the personal win is an important mantra embedded in Vydia’s culture up front. If someone ever tries to say, “That’s not my job” to a task they’ve been handed, you better believe we’re going to have a sidebar. If you were asked to do something, you’re the right person. Make sure to always lead by example too. When I set up team building events and the workshop is underway, I don’t make the intern's pick up lunch and miss out on activities.

There’s plenty of tedious tasks for them to do, but don’t do it at the expense of their growth with the company. Set your expectations up front and reward the ones that work to exceed your standards. You’re only as strong as your weakest Millennial so make sure they’ve got a good attitude and good intentions on elevating your brand.

We talk a lot about how Millennials can add or detract from a company, but let’s not overlook that they are shopping employers as well. Each candidate is also analyzing their investment of their time spent working for an employer. In order to get your money’s worth of each Millennial, you have to start by treating them like individuals instead of assets.  Every employee brings a different perspective to your company, adding depth and value to your workforce. Millennials are ready to show you a new and improved definition of loyalty, if you learn what makes them feel fulfilled.


Jenna Gaudio is director of marketing at Vydia. Jenna's love for video technology started while studying Communication & Film Studies at Monmouth University where she remains an active mentor. Click here to learn about Vydia job openings.

Design Week at Bell Works Inspires A Work Happy, Work Inspired Office Culture

Happiness isn’t overrated. In fact, it’s a vital part of an inspired, stimulating work culture where employees feel valued and nurtured.

Working inspired is at the core of the Bell Works mission — breaking down the barriers found in most closed office environments, giving people the space to interact and thrive. Bell Works, the reimagined former Bell Labs building, is being designed as a live, work play mixed-use community right in the heart of Holmdel, NJ.

Paola Zamudio, owner of NPZ Style + Décor and interior designer for the Bell Works renovation project, believes achieving a work happy environment is a blend of many things.

“Working happy is a combination of a space that is well designed, a culture where people feel inspired, a sense of community where people want to belong, and having a workspace that promotes wellbeing,” Paola said.

Some of those well-designed spaces at Bell Works come in the form of pre-built coworking rooms designed by Paola. The Bauhaus Futura room in vi Innovation Labs is bright, colorful and creative, inspired by the Bauhaus Art and Design Style featuring Herman Miller furniture with a bright, artistic spirit. Industrial Luxe is laid back and collaborative, with sleek finishes and an open ceiling, and Eero’s Dream pays homage to Saarinen with its modern, sleek and one-of-a-kind design.

The Bell Labs building was designed by Eero Saarinen in 1962, who saw the future of work here. With collaboration in mind, he inverted the building, with the hallways on the inside and open space in the middle.

“He designed a building of the future in Bell Labs,” Paola said. “Long hallways, creative hubs where scientists and technologists could meet and share ideas. Now at Bell Works, we are keeping Saarinen’s legacy alive by designing spaces that keep creative juices flowing. We want people from different backgrounds to meet, collaborate and create something amazing!”

The scope and uniqueness of the Bell Works project has drawn national attention, with features in Fortune, NPR, Dwell, Architect Magazine and Inc. The design work being done in the historic midcentury building grabbed the attention of Bobby Berk, millennial designer of Bobby Berk Home. Bobby is visiting Bell Works and its coworking spaces vi Collaboration Hub on Friday, September 23.

An innovator putting a major emphasis on working happy is Poppin, an office solution startup based in New York City. Poppin believes great work is inspired by designing a physical space that puts culture front and center. The company reimagines ordinary artifacts found in the office into extraordinary pieces that make the office come alive.

Victoria Pascoe, architecture and design market manager with Poppin, believes there are two ways to look at working happy, and companies and organizations who place an emphasis on culture are easy to recognize.

“Working happy can refer to both the physical space and/or the company culture you instill,” Victoria said. “Building and exuding a strong office culture has so many benefits – from attracting and retaining top talent to boosting productivity and encouraging inter-departmental collaboration — culture is key!”

At Poppin, the mission is simple. Help create uniquely-designed spaces where employees can work creatively, comfortably and collaboratively.

“The notion of creating spaces where employees can work happy is becoming more important to designers and the end users,” Victoria said. “There’s been a shift in articulating corporate culture through design because it creates a sense of belonging in the workplace, breeds satisfaction, and has an amazing unifying effect.”

Working happy drives innovation. From colors and textiles, to big open spaces and happy hours, work environments are changing, and for the better.

Bolon, the Swedish design company known for its woven vinyl flooring, is just one company helping drive innovation through creative materials and flexible products. Ed Pedrick, managing director at Bolon North America, is a big believer in technology and its drive to support new modes of working of digital natives vs digital immigrants.

“It’s vital to create work places that support these varying cultural differences and cultivate environments that inspire through designing spaces that support different requirements throughout the day,” Ed said. “Whether it’s focused work, collaborative meetings or community gathering areas, creating a happy workplace is not only about supporting fun but also supporting efficiencies so that you feel fulfilled with your productivity and interactions with your colleagues.”

One company right here in the Garden State leading the way in creating great culture and workspaces for employees is iCIMS, a talent acquisition software solutions company who is moving to Bell Works in 2017 from its current location in Matawan. Voted one of the Best Companies to Work For in New Jersey the past five consecutive years by NJBIZ, iCIMS is known for its positive culture focused on wealth, wellness and well-being.

“Culture plays a critical role in the work environment,” said Deborah Walsh, Workplace Services Executive with iCIMS. “It’s the reflection of the way people communicate, their pattern of behavior. Commonality is a way to stay in touch with the world at large through design and trends. I believe it’s also important to create a unique corporate culture that sets the style/values for an individual company. iCIMS has a set of core competencies that mirror our work ethic and are built in to the structure of our organization.”

So how can companies big and small work to create workspaces of happiness and inspiration?

“We like to design spaces to sync to brand identity and values,” Paola said of Bell Works. “Some might have open space offices and others might be more individualized. We love using furniture that is flexible, that can be reconfigured and modular. That’s what people want these days. That’s why we love Poppin, Herman Miller and Bolon, because they’re flexible and easy to use, but bring color, art and design into the spaces.”

For Poppin, working happy is about working scrappy.

“We’re creatively scrappy with getting the most out of our space, which is a huge challenge in Manhattan,” said Victoria. “We’ve created collaborative areas with modular, active lounge and soft seating which is great for encouraging people to get up from their desks and move around. We also utilize hoteling stations and standing-height tables for quick meetings. Poppin is a very colorful brand so utilizing color also plays a big role in infusing our space with our culture-friendly brand identity.”

Deborah, who is tasked with overseeing the iCIMS move from Matawan to Bell Works, is in the thick of creating a work happy environment for iCIMS employees. So what is Deborah thinking about as she works to create this culture in a new environment?

“I think lighting is one of the most significant design features in a space,” she said. “It sets the tone/mood and creates atmosphere. Lighting serves as an accessory, much the same as jewelry in your wardrobe. Of course furniture is a central component to the office and can be both functional and fun. I love open environments with clear views to the outdoors, collaborative areas and quiet nooks. Creative signage and branding that surprises the viewer — anything you don’t expect to see in the typical workplace.”

At Bolon, a major focus on working happy is creating a family environment that shares and supports one another’s successes and challenges in work and life.

“When this philosophy is adopted it inspires everyone from the top down to be the best co-worker and friend they can be,” Ed said. “It’s important that you smile when you arrive in the morning and when you leave – what happens in the middle cannot always be controlled.”

Interested in creating workspaces of happy inspiration?

Join us for a meetup, How To Transform The Traditional Office To a Work Happy Environment, at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, September 21 at the Big Bang Café at Bell Works, 101 Crawfords Corner, Holmdel, NJ. Whether you’re starting up or making over, learn how you can create an environment of happy inspiration within your office culture.  Register here.

New Jersey’s Curators of Coworking

The Future of Tech, Startups and Coworking in the Garden State

Cafes are crowded and loud. Home has the laundry and Netflix. So for the growing number of freelancers, currently 34 percent of the global workforce, what’s the answer?


Coworking spaces not only offer stable wifi and a place to call your own, but collaboration and creativity. And it’s not just for freelancers.

Startups are finding success at spaces where technology is priority and support is built right in. Coworking is professional, productive and can fuel entrepreneurship. Connections are made and deals are closed. It’s a haven for millennials, who crave flexibility and networking, but also a culture where corporate execs can feel they’re giving their employees a place to thrive. And more people are recognizing the benefits than ever before.

According to Desk Mag, 10,000 coworking spaces will open by the end of 2016, up from 7,800 the prior year.

We talked to New Jersey’s curators of coworking, Noelle Stary of The (Co) Working Space in Woodbridge, Bret Morgan of Cowerks in Asbury Park, and CoLab Sean Donohue to get the inside scoop on why New Jersey is such a prime spot for coworking.

Describe your coworking space. What kinds of members are you attracting?

Noelle: People who have had their businesses for several years, consultants, sales teams, and creative types.

Bret: We have a community of about 300 members. Mostly developers, designers, and creatives in their 20s and 30s who may or may not have a startup/product.

Sean: We have an open air environment with a mix of shared desk space and dedicated workstations for members. It has an industrial feel to it with lots of exposed concrete and pipes. There are glass conference rooms and some private offices but no one is hidden away. There is a shared kitchen space and some relaxation zones towards the outer edges which can also double as a place to meet clients for more causal discussions.

How does your location play into your space?

Noelle: We’re set up for people to have more individual space, located at the cross section of major highways, the Turnpike, and the Parkway.

Bret: I think being in Asbury Park is awesome. We have over 60 restaurants and bars in our downtown, the beach is three blocks from our offices, and we’re one block from a train station – the location doesn’t really get better.

Sean: Our location is at the heart of a live, work, play mixed-use facility. We function as community managers for not only our coworking space but the Bell Works community. As a whole, the mixed use community features larger established technology companies and will feature, restaurants, shops, and other amenities like a hotel, library, day care and a gym.

What does tomorrow’s coworking space look like?

Noelle: Smaller communities that are more inclusive of amenities and social events.

Bret: Coworking without community is just office space. I think whatever it is, it has to revolve around bringing people together.

Sean: Coworking has provided an example of how the traditional office space is evolving, and it will continue to grow to more locations as spaces continue to specialize community themes. Just like there are different types of hotels, coworking will continue to diversify itself. There will be the major players like the We Works of the world, but there will also be lots of smaller regional coworking companies and spaces and a lot of boutiques.

Why talk and collaborate with strangers?

Noelle: You never know what you are going to find out.  It’s amazing how well “strangers” actually tend to work together.

Bret: When you get into a space and start working in an environment with other entrepreneurs who are doing similar things to you I think you connect with individuals really quickly. As we learn when we’re kids, strangers are just people we haven’t met yet…

Sean: The idea is to create an environment and ecosystem that has been lightly curated to create what we like to call ‘planned, serendipitous moments’ where ideas are exchanged that can open the door to collaboration and potential to network while you work.

People having success in New Jersey are focused on technology and the arts. Why are those so important to this area?

Noelle: New Jersey is a very diverse state and it is constantly looking for something new.  These two areas touch on both of those often.

Bret: I really think there is a huge crossover. If you’re building a product or a service, you’re going to have to make it look good. I really look at commercial design as an extension of art. While a designer’s hands may be tied a bit more than if he or she were creating art for art’s sake, it still is one of our truest forms of expression. I think technology without art loses its purpose and is completely essential to making products that resonate with customers.

Sean: The mixing of technologists and artists is where wonder can happen. While both areas of discipline require different skill sets, both complement each other. The different views on attacking a real world problem can spur creative solutions that otherwise would not have happened without the open sharing environment. Innovation struggles to happen in a walled off world. When you put the dreamers and the makers together in the same room it creates an interesting environment.

Discuss the importance of keeping millennials in New Jersey to live, work and play.

Noelle: I think millennials are looking for a place that feels right to them. There needs to be an environment with a good work/life balance.

Bret: I think New Jersey has a lot of offer, especially living in a city such as Asbury Park. We have a vibrant music and bar scene that rivals anything you’ll find in Brooklyn, Manhattan, or Philly AND we still have the beach. It’s pretty incredible to watch the city evolve from being a community of pioneering artists to a vibrant restaurant and bar scene to an emerging tech and startup scene. There definitely is a buzz. I generally think if you put interesting and awesome people together great things happen and it attracts more interesting and awesome people.

Sean: With NYC and Silicon Valley, pop culture is painting a glorified portrait for the millennial generation that the opportunities are in the valley or the cities. The truth is that companies like iCIMS and Workwave have been solving real world problems right here in NJ and part of the value proposition to the younger generation is rewarding them with a more balanced work/­life situation. There are many small startups growing in NJ and there are many bright spots of innovation here. The problem is exposing the great locally homegrown companies here in NJ. We need more centers and more commerce. Mixed use developments like Bell Works can be those conduits that create the right urban vibe in the suburbs that can highlight the local technology and entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Fill us in on the NJ companies to watch who are using coworking spaces as a springboard for success.

Noelle: We find that companies such as Google still come to use our space because employees aren’t that interested in always going to NYC.

Bret: We have a bunch of development and design shops working out of the space. We’ve actually been quite successful at building our digital agency, Humble Humans, by leveraging these freelancers and small companies. Often times a project, whether it’s a mobile or web app for a startup or a branding and digital marketing campaign, comes into our wheelhouse. We’ve been very successful at building ad hoc teams within our membership to help not only our business grow but our member’s companies as well.

Sean: Small businesses and start­ups are the well-known players, but there is a trend of big corporate companies that are dipping their toes into the coworking world. They see the benefit of having small corporate teams located outside the walls of the mothership. It creates opportunities for interesting collaboration efforts.

How do your coworking spaces differ?

Noelle: Our space is different mainly based on size. Our space is very warm and homey – mainly because of the size. While still collaborative, the people that come here say that what they love most is how productive they are in the space.

Bret: Being in Asbury Park definitely has an advantage over a lot of other spaces. As I mentioned before, we have access to over 60 restaurants and bars which our members often meet with clients or friends after work. We also have the beach 3 blocks away with is pretty unique and incredible to any space.

Sean: I think that each coworking space creates its own culture to a certain degree. A space starts to generate its own identity as the community within develops.

Last month, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) announced it had closed on a loan to Cowerks to help the space expand its footprint in Asbury Park. Cowerks has outgrown its current office of 1,600 square feet and plans to use the loan to occupy and build out another facility in the city, close to its existing location. Cowerks also anticipates expanding its existing location.

Why is it important to have organizations like the NJEDA around to provide funding and support for coworking spaces?

Noelle: These spaces take support to really grow. Trying to do this without support is next to impossible.

Bret: I think the future of business is in small business. EDA programs that help build small business will ultimately help fuel the NJ economy for the next part of this century.

Sean: It can help accelerate the great things that are already growing in NJ. Though the model can function without state assistance.

Where do you see NJ’s future in funding and recognizing incubators/coworking spaces?

Noelle: I’d like to see NJ pick up support and recognize coworking spaces more. NJ has a ton of self-employed people who could greatly benefit from this.

Bret: I think NJ sees and respects the value coworking, accelerators, and incubators play in building small businesses and the economy as a whole. I think the next governor of NJ will really have to address small businesses, including freelancers and contractors who are going to play a role in the state’s future concerning economic redevelopment.

Sean: Coworking is here to stay as the environment we work in continues to evolve. Investors and VC’s need deal flow, so there needs to be an organic ecosystem of small companies and startups looking to scale and grow. We need to nurture the community here and provide a compelling story to the entrepreneurs outside NJ about the resources available in the Garden State.

How has your background played a part in your success?

Noelle: We started Jersey’s first coworking space over eight years ago. While the road has been long, it’s been impressive to see the turnaround over the last three years. It feels like it has started to explode.

Bret: Growing up two things were important to me – music and technology. I was heavily involved in the NJ punk and hardcore music scene for a very long time and the one thing I really took away was the incredible sense of community. People within the community were looking for an escape as well as others they could relate to. I think tech/entrepreneurship is very much a similar community. People that are into that are heavily into it. When we started Cowerks I tried to take lessons I learned from the music scene in regards to community building and bring them to our space. As far as tech, I started programming when I was in the 4th grade and it always was an important part of my life. I picked up a computer science degree with math and physics minors along the way so I’ve always been very heavily into engineering and the sciences

Sean: I have always been the type of person to have an in-person meeting instead of an email or a call. Being in an office environment like a coworking space is very comfortable for me. There are always things happening and it is fast paced, similar to a loose agency where everyone answers to their own bottom line.

Flexible office space, opportunities for growth with reduced risk and lower overhead, and access to new talent and ideas are just some of the perks of coworking in New Jersey. Coworking encourages creativity and productivity, not just within one company, but between organizations.

New Jersey is primed and ready for the continuing coworking revolution.

Is your company interested in coworking at Bell Works? Click here to schedule a tour.

Work Inspires Play at Bell Works

“What if the office became a place to live, create, play, research, entertain, connect, dine, incubate, broadcast, mentor, muse, learn, party, invent?” – David Rockwell, American architect, designer and champion of immersive environments.


Work is changing, and so is the workplace.

At the former Bell Labs, once it’s own universe of telecommunications work tucked away in the trees of Holmdel, New Jersey, the workplace is being reborn, reinvented, revitalized, into Bell Works — a live, work and play space.

But how do you find a balance between these three important things? Do you have to? Or can each meld into one another to create something bigger?

That’s what Ralph Zucker is after in his redevelopment of the space.

Zucker is president of Somerset Development, the organization leading the revitalization of the former Bell Labs building into a place for inspired work and play.

Zucker’s mission is to blur the lines of work and play, past and future, imagination and reality. And this is happening by bringing together a diverse community of innovators, thinkers, makers, and other thought leaders who have one common goal — to bring New Jersey and Bell Works back to their heydey when technology advancements and innovation reigned supreme in the Garden State.

“In order to talk about play you have to talk about work, and we’ve been freed to move about the cabin,” Zucker said. “You can work from almost anywhere, and with that mobility comes a further blurring of the lines of life, work and play.”

When Eero Saarinen designed the 2 million square foot behemoth on 472 acres of land in 1962, his vision was collaboration. A glimpse of the times to come, when the blurring of life, work and play would become the norm. He was ahead of his time, inverting the building, with the hallways on the inside and open space in the middle, spurring collaboration, which in turn allows innovation and creativity to blossom.

More than 50 years after he designed the space, Saarinen’s building is still relevant, even more so now as our work blurs into our personal lives and our lives into our work.

“Physical walls are coming down,” said Zucker. “Our social fabric isn’t isolating.”

Live/work/play used to only be about convenience. Let me live close to my job so that I can get on with my life right after work.

“Work used to have to happen at a desk, and play was everything outside of being at that desk. Today, live/work/play means something totally different,” said Zucker. “Everything is coming together and there really is not a demarcation between live, work or play.”

When Zucker and his team say “play” they’re not talking games, but leisure, incorporated into the workday. Those snippets of time you’re away from your desk interacting with people, architecture and nature. At Bell that means walking along a glass-lined hallway to grab a cup of coffee from Booskerdoo and enjoying the natural light and lush greenery on your way back.

This kind of experience is one modern workers have come to crave and something employers are using to attract and retain talent. Recognizing their employee’s need for this play, employers are moving aways from spaces and people segregated within cubicles and utilitarian office surroundings.

“We want people to get out of the office and bump into people,” said Zucker. “And we have proof that this interactive collaboration is what people are after because we have executives moving hundreds of people here to Bell Works where that collaboration is our focus.”

Bell Works interior designer Paola Zamudio shares Zucker’s dream of interaction. For Zamudio, it’s all about the kind of experience people have.


“I want to create a culture of interaction and movement,” she said. “It’s about wellbeing in all aspects of the word. It’s about your mental and physical health and the stimulation that’s necessary for creativity to happen.”

This experience begins the minute someone enters the massive space. Zamudio wants to create a vibe that allows work and play to live in harmony. She believes in the power of stimulating surroundings to create relaxation that offsets the stress work can bring. Inspiring the people in the building with a great atmosphere makes for happier employees who in turn feel motivated and creative.

“I think this idea of wellbeing is the future of design,” said Zamudio. “Making those spaces that create experiences and empower employees. We don’t live in a fearful work culture now. We have the freedom to trust our employees and think about the results. Happier people give better results.”

There is no lack of office space in New Jersey. But Zucker and his team know that companies, executives and employees have a hunger to be in a place of the future. A place where live, work and play intersect. A place that stimulates the mind. A place that provides an authentic experience in a location that breeds inspiration.

Actual play comes in many forms at Bell Works. From the events that happen on the premises, from a 5K to a drone racing competition, large spaces with colorful pieces of mid-century modern furniture that spark conversations, ping pong and foosball tables that encourage interaction. The goal is to get people talking.

For upcoming events and updates on the progress of the growth at Bell Works, visit Bell Works website


Coming Soon: Booskerdoo

Coming Soon! Booskerdoo Coffee 

Booskerdoo will be opening their Bell Works location mid week. Come stop by to enjoy a freshly brewed cup of coffee and a delicious treat. We can't wait to see you there!

101 Crawfords Corner Rd Holmdel, NJ - New Jersey 07733

Can Your Company Cowork In New Jersey?

Coworking is rising, still. But what about in the suburbs? Especially there. And its members aren’t who you imagine (hipster+Mac+coffee+plaid).

Increasingly suburban coworking is becoming more diversified in age, gender and industry as professionals age out of city life and head to the suburbs for grass and kiddie soccer. And New Jersey, with its transportation infrastructure (hello, NJ Coastline), proximity to Manhattan and concentration of educated, well-heeled talent, is a logical place for workers to retreat to. These new suburban workers here have similar needs to their city counterparts: flexible, affordable office space and community. But it’s not just freelancers and the work-from-home-two-days-a week crowd populating New Jersey’s emerging coworking spaces. It’s also companies.

Spirent, a telecommunications company, moved their 86-employee business development and customer experience division into a 17,000 square-foot space at Bell Works. They came to Bell because it was a place rich in tradition of tech advancement, but that’s not the only reason.

Why are they here?

  • Flexible office space
  • Opportunities for growth with reduced risk and lower overhead
  • Access to new talent and ideas


For Sean Donahue, founding partner in vi Collaboration Hub, coworking encourages creativity and productivity not just within one company, but between organizations.

“The key is that you are not hiding yourself away,” Donahue said.  “You’re working in an office setting where other workers might be working on completely different projects for a different company, but they see someone working on something that they feel they could add value too so they decide to chat with that person. Maybe it’s some free advice, maybe a mentoring opportunity, a partnership opportunity, maybe a whole new idea comes from the discussion that could disrupt an entire industry.”

Donahue’s venture, vi Collaboration Hub, incorporates coworking along with incubation and education inside Bell Works. With his partner Chris Palle, the goal is to create an ecosystem that encourages New Jersyans to collaborate on new ventures.

“One thing that we know for certain is that if you are locked away in an office or hidden away in a cube, the chances for these planned serendipitous moments are far less likely, if not impossible.”

Another advantage for companies is happier workers.

It turns out that workers in coworking spaces find their jobs more meaningful.

A study by Harvard Business Review found that members of coworking spaces say they are thriving at work at a level above what traditional office workers report.

An excerpt from the HBV report:


“People who use coworking spaces see their work as meaningful. Aside from the type of work they’re doing – freelancers choosing projects they care about, for example — the people we surveyed reported finding meaning in the fact that they could bring their whole selves to work. They’re able to do this in a few ways.


First, unlike a traditional office, coworking spaces consist of members who work for a range of different companies, ventures, and projects. Because there is little direct competition or internal politics, they don’t feel they have to put on a work persona to fit in. Working amidst people doing different kinds of work can also make one’s own work identity stronger. Our respondents were given the opportunity to frequently describe what they do, which can make what they do seem more interesting and distinctive.


Second, meaning may also come from working in a culture where it is the norm to help each other out, and there are many opportunities to do so; the variety of workers in the space means that coworkers have unique skill sets that they can provide to other community members.”


And a more diverse talent pool. In today’s jobseeker market, workers have the freedom to decide how they want to work, and most crave flexibility, collaboration and an unconstrained working environment. According to an Intuit study, by 2020 more than 40 percent of the workforce, or 60 million people, will be independent workers. And if current trends persist, these independent workers will increasingly be the best and brightest of the talent pool, with professionals such as attorneys, CMOs and consultants with world-class training choosing to work independently.

In suburban Chicago the coworking space 25N founded by Mara Hauser is attracting workers outside the young freelance crowd, according to a Huffington Post story.

“Unlike their original assumptions about who would come, 25N clearly has all five generations working within their walls. The over 65+ crowd is a smaller percentage, but most users are distributed evenly between thirty-somethings, forty-somethings and fifty-somethings. Half of their members are female,” Huff Post reported.

“The community is evenly distributed with about one-third virtual corporate employees, one-third freelance, and one-third small businesses. These ratios are actually quite different than most urban coworking spaces, who tend to have a larger percentage of freelancers and much smaller percentage of corporate virtual employees. Hauser believes that this is just one of many indicators of the future success of the suburban coworking model. She questions what will happen when millennials, who tend to seek time over money, begin to have families and migrate to the suburbs. She notes, ‘A lot of startups think they have to be in the city, but do they have to if they are in places like this? Many businesses in cities are shrinking their real estate portfolios. They want to have hubs near their customers, but where are customers? Many of them may be in the suburbs. Suburban locations might not be the headquarters, but it can be a great strategy to leverage hubs as an additional employee benefit.’”

One of those employee benefits is connection.

Interior designer Paola Zamudio made this a key principal in her design of offices at Bell Works  and within vi Collaboration Hub’s coworking spacing. Private and coworking offices have glass walls allowing workers to see one another working on projects or even going to lunch or for a walk.

“We’re connected with Instagram [but in the future] the connection is going to be meeting other people, real connection, looking at each other’s eyes,” Zamudio said. “Human connection is going to be the next luxury.”

Part of what makes coworking facilities unique from a grouping of small offices is their emphasis on growing together as a business community. At vi members have easy access to the frequent meetups held at Bell Works on everything from small business tax issues and digital marketing, to how to pitch your business to a venture capitalist. When members attend these events they’re not just getting info on a topic and chatting with someone from a different department in their own company. They’re deepening their connections to other members who work outside their company, and maybe outside their industries.

Donahue, who once held a corporate job in a traditional office, said it’s not just that he felt stifled inside a cube, but that he was never energized by his environment. Now he said he’s inspired every day, not just by his work to build vi, but also by the space and the people populating the growing offices.

“The most important thing  I always tell people about coworking and  about the work we do at vi and Bell Works, is that community is key. People want to be able to work in an active, evolving environment. They need places to focus, but also they long for a sense of companionship and a work environment to collaborate with other like minded people and a place to cross pollinate with others across different industries.”

Tenant Spotlight: Spirent

NJ Tech Company Makes A Move to Attract Top Local Talent

When Spirent, a telecommunications company, reorganized last year its leaders looked for a space where the company could grow. A place with a rich tradition of technology advancement. A place where it would be in a position to recruit locally from the ultra-talented New Jersey employee market. A place where its people could work inspired.

Spirent found that place in Bell Works.

The 86 employee strong Spirent business development and customer experience division moved into the former Bell Labs building after consolidating two of its business units. Tom Magg, the vice president of business development at Spirent, sees Bell Works as the perfect home for his  department.

“Fundamentally, this is where the advances in telecommunications happened,” Magg said.

The building is rich in telecommunications history, housing the research and development departments for the Bell System for 44 years. Bell Labs is where the first transatlantic telephone cable connected Europe to the US with 36 simultaneous calls in 1956. And where, in 1963, the first touch-tone telephone was invented before the first commercial cellular network and digital cellular phone came along in 1978-80 in the same building.

Magg and his team work to ensure quality interactions during telecommunications, providing the software and equipment to companies who hire them to monitor their services and maintain that equipment. Spirent enables innovations in communications technologies that help connect people by providing service, data centers, enterprise IT networks, mobile communications and more.

And with more than 60 billion messages coming across their desks and hundreds of terabytes of data to analyze daily, things are never slow at Spirent.

“Our business unit was a startup before being absorbed by Spirent,” Magg said. “So we really respect the work that the startups are doing at Bell Works. It’s a great place for us to keep our startup mentality.”

More than half the employees of Spirent’s business development unit spent time working in the Bell Labs building before it closed in 2007. When Spirent consolidated two of its business units and was looking for a home for the new division, Ray Lee, director of global properties with Spirent, approached the task by looking at financial incentives and geographical perks.

“New Jersey is really working to provide financial advantages for businesses to set up shop and stay in the state,” Lee said. “Tax breaks will go a long way in keeping NJ companies local.” See what other Bell entrepreneurs are saying about tax breaks here.

But attracting young talent in New Jersey to feed those businesses is an issue.

Currently, according to Choose New Jersey, New Jersey students are leaving the state at a rate nearly twice the national average, or 35,000 students a year.

“We’ve got to attract the best and brightest engineers to figure out solutions for our customers,” Magg said. He and Lee say they’re looking to schools like Princeton, Stevens Institute of Technology and New Jersey Institute of Technology to supply their demand. And they’re banking on their new space, and its tech pedigree, to help attract them.

“When we were in a regular office nothing differentiated us,”Magg said.

Programs like Choose New Jersey’s Smart Students Initiative aim to keep top talent in the state. The Smart Students Initiative incentivizes top-performing students by offering the highest academically-ranked students from 44 schools who choose to attend a New Jersey college a one-time, $2,000 scholarship and paid summer job at participating businesses for the three summers after their freshman, sophomore and junior years. According to Choose New Jersey, more than half of internships turn into jobs.

Participating businesses include Audible, Public Service Enterprise Group, Atlantic City Electric, PNC Bank, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Hackensack University Health Network, and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey.

Spirent currently takes up 17,000 square feet at Bell Works and has the option to expand, which could mean more tech jobs for the next crop of graduates.

“Now that we’re at Bell Works, we’re seeing the younger generation of employees really wanting to stay in New Jersey. We’re recruiting out of the best colleges in NJ.”

For more information on Spirent, visit

Why NJ Startups Have a Hard Time Getting Funded

“The last 10 percent it takes to launch something takes as much energy as the first 90 percent.”

–Rob Kalin, co-founder of Etsy

There’s no doubt that founding a startup is a tough job. It takes time and sacrifice. And money. The search for funds to back a startup is a particularly daunting task, even though the last few years have brought new opportunities such as crowdsourcing, grants focused on startups, and startup incubators.

It’s a given that founding a company is hard. But to be a founder in New Jersey these last two decades has been even harder. Is it getting easier? Are we making strides to attract and retain founders, talent and investors? Yes and yes, says lifelong resident and founder, Jennifer Crews.

But it still takes grit, tenacity and a startup support community — and it’s that last one that Crews, who is the founder of Flock, a cloud-based service for families, says she has found at Bell Works with vi, an innovation hub for those who want to launch and grow companies.

From her own experience

A former corporate executive and vice president with Dun & Bradstreet, a company providing commercial data to businesses on credit history, Crews has for the past seven years, turned her focus to the local economy and what it will take to amplify tech activity in Monmouth County and across the state. As both a consultant to businesses here and as founder she says she’s found it tough.

“We don’t have an especially founder-friendly ecosystem compared to other places in the country,” Crews said. “I have witnessed this for a while and now, as a founder, I am experiencing it first hand.” Her startup, Flock, is a service that puts families on autopilot so parents have more freedom to focus on what fulfills them.

But, Crews said, the founder atmosphere in the region isn’t stalled, it just takes some digging to find.

“There are events and people who are working to build tech communities and organizations who seek to play a role in fostering entrepreneurial activity,” she said.

She sees this happening at Bell Works. An example of this would be most specifically with Brand New J, an organization working to revive the startup environment in New Jersey. The group is made up of local thought leaders, entrepreneurs, investors and innovators who have a vested interest in fostering a culture of success for startups and entrepreneurs in the Garden State. Bell Works and vi are heavily involved in Brand New J and support its mission to keep local talent in the state, create an atmosphere conducive to startups, and make New Jersey the place to be for entrepreneurs.

The challenges to raising a company in the Garden State, she said, aren’t as simple as a lack of angel investors or incubation space. It’s a subtle lack of startup culture.

“We can create a ton of activity and invest a lot of effort, but the key to building a robust startup ecosystem is to make New Jersey a place where founders want to do business. Attracting founders is key.”

A fast way to do that she says is eliminating the capital gains tax.

“It would give founders a compelling reason to start a company here,” Crews said. “More founders starting exciting companies leads to more talent coming into, or staying in the state. More founders lead to more service firms that cater to early stage companies. More founders  lead to new standards for doing business, like short term leases. For example, in NJ corporate real estate with a five- to 10-year lease is the norm and what building owners expect, but that’s not a realistic commitment for a pre-revenue company to make.”

Jay Bhatti, a venture capitalist with Brand Project and who is based out of Bell Works, agrees with Crews on this front. At TEDxNavesink in April he discussed eliminating the capital gains tax in New Jersey for startups who sell their startup after a successful run.

“Let’s reward the victory,” Bhatti said. “If you move to New Jersey or if you start an innovative company in New Jersey, you don’t have to pay capital gains tax when you have an exit event. The result is more companies coming to New Jersey and an increased tax base.”

Jay encourages support of this idea by signing a petition here.

Many NJ agencies are working to help nurture the startup environment in the Garden State and help provide financial incentives to set up shop in the state. Grow NJ, a job creation and retention incentive program from the New Jersey Economic Development Association, is making great strides in providing NJ entrepreneurs financial assistance. They’re strengthening New Jersey's competitive edge by offering tax credits to businesses that are creating or retaining jobs in New Jersey. The Grow NJ Assistance program awarded incentives to a total of 102 projects tied to the creation of 12,598 new, full-time jobs and 13,956 retained jobs from December 2013 to April 2015.

The Innovation New Jersey Coalition is a coalition of businesses, trade associations and higher education institutions who are working to strengthen and enhance the culture of innovation in New Jersey. One way they do this is by helping entrepreneurs find venture funds and tax credits to offset financial burden.

Choose NJ is doing the same for the startup environment in the state. The organization, privately funded by leaders from the state’s top companies, venture, labor organization and higher education institutions, works to stimulate job creation and capital investment, and collaborate with the State’s universities to encourage research, discovery, and innovation.

David Sorin, managing partner of McCarter English’s East Brunswick office and the head of the Venture Capital and Emerging Growth Companies practice, sees these financial incentives provided by New Jersey coalitions working.

“Never has there been a better time to be an innovator or entrepreneur than right now,” Sorin said. “There has been a lot of capital available to companies. There are resources available today so companies don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and as a result, less capital is necessary to get new products and solutions to market.”

Advice for founders

Crews admits that in growing her company Flock in New Jersey she faces funding challenges that founders might not in Silicon Valley or Boulder where there is a culture that understands and nurtures startups, where angel investors are willing to buy into a concept and invest from a pitch deck. NJ is a harder environment, but it isn’t bleak, she said. In her own journey to funding Crews took note of what founders can do to better position themselves.

Here’s her advice:

  • Connect with a New Jersey startup community (like the one forming at Bell Works)
  • Find potential co-founders and pull together a few people who are willing to work for equity (because there is no cash yet)
  • Hire professional service providers who have pricing structures suitable for very early-stage companies, as opposed to those geared more toward serving established businesses

Events like the panels and meetups hosted at Bell Works are vital for creating connections and building community, Crews said, specifically mentioning the NJ Strategic Design and Tech Meetups sponsored by vi. Ari Rabban of agrees, citing the meetups happening around the state as vital to changing the tech startup atmospher in the state.

“This grassroots activity or bottom up approach is, I believe, very important to get more of an entrepreneurial spirit going,” Rabban said.  “When individuals interact, network and listen to successful entrepreneurs, share stories etc., it gets infectious and leads to more opportunities and new entrepreneurs.”

“Being a founder is a lonely proposition, especially in the beginning,” Crews said. “Every time I come together with others who are living in the space of entrepreneurship I leave with something valuable.”

Besides the tangible benefits of connections to funders and service providers that Bell provides, Crews says it’s the inspiration and encouragement she’s found there that has kept her going. “Bell Works and vi are doing a great job of building community right here in New Jersey.”


Get an Investor’s Attention in One Minute

Brian Smiga has been through rounds of funding and support for his startup ventures, like Preclick and 1ClickCharge. He’s also been on the opposite end of the startup world as an investor. He uniquely understands that a busy investor’s time is valuable. But an entrepreneur’s time is equally as important, so he shared his advice on how to get a funder’s attention at the recent NJ Strategic Design and Tech Meetup at Bell Works. Smiga is also Founder of TEDxNavesink, a NJ shore TEDx annual conference that started in 2013. The speakers, experts in everything from tech to psychology, are chosen based on their stories. These talks range from 4-18 minutes; they grab the audience from the start, taking them on a journey of emotions, action and inquiry. The startup’s pitch should do the same.

The first minute is everything.

“If you don’t grab them in the first minute, you’re swimming up tide the rest of the way,” Smiga said. He suggests skipping right to the middle of your business story to get investors hooked, the smaller details can come later. His advice is to forgo introducing yourself right off the bat and get to the heart of your story. Why? “Because you can always tell them who you are after you tell your story. They want to know how big your business or idea is first. Secondly, the investor wants to understand your role in the company.”

 It’s all a story.

“Unless you put your pitch in a story structure, it’s not sticking,” Smiga said. “Use a narrative structure, with a protagonist (your company) against an antagonist (a problem you faced). Tell your story at any length of depth.” Smiga suggests thinking about what inspired you to start your business and what failures, challenges or struggles you faced to help craft the narrative.

Create a story deck.

The story deck includes many things, but it focuses on what you do and who you are.


What to include in a story deck

How you deliver value.

Smiga suggests establishing a position of empathy with the investor. He uses the example of, an online service that simplifies buying and selling used cars. “Everyone loves buying cars, but they hate selling them. Communicating that to an investor shows you really know your customers and their challenges. That’s where your value is.”

How your customer experiences that value.

“If you can’t explain in dollars and cents or satisfaction what your product means to a customer, I’m not buying it. You have to know your customers better than anyone,” Smiga said. But how do you calculate customer satisfaction? Smiga’s advice is to use Net Promoter Score, a free online tool to help predict growth via customer satisfaction scores.

Competitive advantage.

“Ask yourself how you are different,” Smiga said. “A simple visual grid that highlights your offerings against a competitor is a good way to do this.”

How you go to market.

How you make money.

Financial projections.

How you can work together with funders, partners, etc.

Summary. “At the end, summarize why they’ve listened to you for 20 minutes and why you are different,” Smiga said. “Be bold! Maybe you are the ONLY company to do something, or you are the BEST at it. But you have to use a compelling story to communicate that.”

The NJ Strategic Design and Tech Meetup group holds weekly events for creatives at Bell Works in Holmdel, NJ. For more information, visit

Another Eero Saarinen Masterpiece Gets New Life

The Bell Works building and the TWA Flight Center couldn’t be more different. Bell is full of straight lines meeting at sharp angles. The Flight Center is full of free-flowing curves that melt into one another.

But the mammoth suburban New Jersey office building and the Queens airport terminal have two important things in common, their creator Eero Saarinen and his now iconic high design sensibility, and a massive restoration planned for each.

This icon of TWA’s heyday will soon be restored to glory by MCR Development LLC, the seventh largest hotel owner-operator in the US. MCR and JetBlue Airlines are planning a $265 million renovation of the terminal along with a pair of six-story hotels on the site.

In New Jersey Somerset Development is redeveloping the historic Bell Labs building into Bell Works, a reimagining of the space as a center for work, play and creativity.

Ralph Zucker, President of Somerset Development, recently visited the TWA Flight Center and called it, “one of the most significant Saarinen buildings to be brought back to life.”.

“I was in awe and inspired by the breadth of MCR’s vision,” Zucker said. “They are genuine preservationists who fought a long battle to preserve Saarinen’s work.”

Like a great bird landing among the airplanes at John F. Kennedy Airport Saarinen’s TWA Flight Center is an architectural marvel, its two massive wings a reminder of days past. The once-bustling center at terminal five at JFK airport was completed in 1962, one year after architectural giant Saarinen’s death, and was in operation until 2001, and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

There isn’t a straight line in the place, with the style straddling Futurism and Fantastic Architecture. Curved walls seamlessly become the floor, which is covered in bright red carpet that pops against the bright white interior.

The historic terminal will remain intact, but will be renovated. The proposed hotel will have 505 rooms, 40,000 square feet of event space, restaurants and bars, as well as an aviation museum. The entire project is slated to be completed by 2018.

Listening to MCR’s managing partner in charge of the TWA Flight Center’s renovation, Zucker said he felt like he was listening to himself casting a vision for his own Saarinen building.

“He sees people, he sees a nightclub as he walks through the terminal,” Zucker said. “He sees a premiere destination.”

Zucker too has plans to make his building (with its scale not too far off from a small commercial airport) into a premiere destination. Though the focus of his redevelopment will be less about launching people into their travels, and more about attracting innovators to land in New Jersey.

The Bell Works redevelopment is transforming the dormant giant company headquarters into a space for startups and entrepreneurs working in the Garden State, breaking down the barriers found in most closed office environments, giving people the space to interact, thrive, and innovate.

Commercial Property Executive: 3 Reasons Developers Prefer Adaptive Reuse to New Construction

Creative projects give new life to vintage properties. 
Why go through the trouble and expense of transforming obsolete buildings for the 21st century, rather than starting from scratch?

Today’s developers are finding a host of reasons. Some mature, densely developed markets offer precious little land for new construction. Others present an opportunity to reinvigorate an underachieving zone between the city and its business-magnet suburbs. Then there are the abandoned factories within a stone’s throw of major roads and rail lines, and the attractively located suburban office complexes sitting vacant.

That last scenario was the story when Somerset Development set its sights on the former Bell Labs campus in its hometown of Holmdel, N.J. Unused since 2007, the 2 million-square-foot, 472-acre property had been well maintained by its owner, Alcatel-Lucent.

Early in the process, Somerset faced the challenge of winning support from residents and officials for its $200 million plan to convert the iconic Eero Saarinen edifice to a mixed-use complex and dedicate part of the site to housing.

Somerset was committed to honoring Saarinen’s vision and won historic designation for the property, explained Ralph Zucker, the firm’s president. Upgrades were necessary in order for the property to maximize appeal to prospective tenants. Somerset purchased “miles and miles and miles of glass” to add windows to the four interior buildings enclosed by a mirrored exterior, and renovated the pedestrian walkway that links those buildings.

Under its new name, Bell Works, the property will comprise offices, retail shops, restaurants, medical and professional services, day care, a sports complex and a gym. “We’ve created an urban vibe in a great suburban location,” Zucker said. “We’re giving the employees a reason to be here.”


Read more at Commercial Property Executive.

Goodbye Cubicles, Hello Inspired Collaboration

“Bell is adapting to the way people are living and working now… In a world full of Twitter and email, it’s a luxury to talk to people. These offices allow people to interact face-to-face when they need to.”

- Paola Zamudio, NPZ Syle & Decor

The approach to redesign an iconic, one-of-kind and dormant office space can go two ways — preserve it as a relic, a showpiece of the past, or find a way to adapt it for a modern workplace, while giving homage to the past. Designer Paola Zamudio faces that 2 million-square-foot challenge at Bell Works, the former Bell Labs in Holmdel, NJ, where she’s seized on one word that defines our emerging work culture - collaboration.

From open floor plans and communal desks, to private office nooks and relaxed lounges, Zamudio, owner of New York based NPZ Syle & Decor, is using designer furniture and careful space planning to recapture the building’s past energy of innovation and make its workspaces a catalyst for the collaborative innovations of the future. Her goal: Transform the six story-space designed by genius Eero Saarinen into a modern, relevant and accessible space for entrepreneurs, startups and established companies.

The building’s scientific legacy is one of profound, though perhaps forgotten, discoveries like cosmic microwave background radiation. Radio astronomy, the transistor, the laser and Information Theory were all credited to scientists working at Bell Labs from 1937 to 1965.  Eight Nobel Prize winners once called Bell Labs home.

A new collaborative coworking space is to be housed in the Bell Works building, is creating an environment that focuses on shared space as a way to foster creativity, productivity, and innovation. Bell Works is a place where entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, freelancers, and anyone who needs a space to work, can thrive. This creative community is aimed at creative problem solvers, business leaders, and innovative technologists. Studies have shown that people who work in a communal work space feel their work is more meaningful when surrounded by a  group of like-minded individuals.

Bell Work’s mission is to attract startups and entrepreneurs to live and work in the Garden State, making New Jersey a center for innovation and a place where startups thrive. Bell is tapping into the culture around inspired work, and that means bringing together several different industries, such as tech, finance, design and science under one roof.

Zamudio’s passion is curating great spaces within great architecture, and she has ample inspiration at Bell. The neofuturistic space boasts glass windows at every turn, sunlight gleaming across the larger-than-life atrium, opening into six stories of office space that overlook the Big Bang Cafe, and a beta coworking space.

The brand new coworking hubs are meant for entrepreneurs who work on the go. Freelancers, consultants and other nontraditional workers are just as in need of a creative workspace as venture capitalists and CEOs. The space will provide them a place to settle in and get work done. No need to visit several coffee shops or bookstores on rotation to find a space to work outside of the home, where concentration can be easily broken. The space will offer a place where creativity can flow, and organic connections can develop.

The renovation of such an historic building deserved deep thought and planning, with heavy thought about where the building was, and where it’s headed.

“I wanted to keep the history of Bell, but look to the future,” said Paola. “That balance was the inspiration for all the spaces.”

Gone are the days of the traditional office, filled with cubicles and flickering fluorescents. Creativity can thrive in environments of open space, and coworking spaces provide social interaction in a location that sparks originality and imagination in a nontraditional setting. Communication can flow, creativity can surface, and new collaborations and partnerships are born. It’s all about the user experience.

“There are so many offices in New Jersey, but if they’re all cubicles, no one will feel inspired,” Zamudio said.

This new way of thinking is something Zamudio kept in mind when thinking about the design of the space. Ultimately, she chose a collaborative furniture line from the modern design house of the legendary Herman Miller.

“The designers of the collaborative line really did their research before releasing it,” Zamudio said. “They did studies and looked to the future. The entire line has a living office feel, allowing for individual work, yet collaborative work with others.”


 Herman Miller is credited with the invention of the cubicle in 1967, which was a symbol of office work for decades.The cubicle was a revolutionary idea in the 60s. But as the way people work has evolved, so has the design of Herman Miller office furniture. The designers recognized that the way people work was changing, and reinvented and reemerged as an modern icon of industrial design for office space.

Zamudio’s focus in creating these coworking spaces was the people who will be using them.

“In a world full of Twitter and email, it’s a luxury to talk to people,” Zamudio said. “These offices allow people to interact face-to-face when they need to.”

The spaces are full of long, communal tables that encourage conversation and ideas; modern desks for those who want something more stable; open space for mingling and the proverbial “water cooler catchup,” and lounge furniture overlooking the impressive Bell grounds for comfortable conferences and meetings.

“It’s definitely a more relaxed vibe,” Zamudio said. “It’s home, but not at home. The spaces have a living room feel that allow people to work with each other, talk with each other and support each other.”

There’s a real humanity to the Herman Miller pieces. It’s all about the people and the interactions, not the desk or the chair. It’s about what can come out of being in a comfortable environment that fosters creativity and innovation. It’s inspiration.

“I get my inspiration from Bell Works — the building, its history, the people” Zamudio said. “That’s why it’s such a great fit for the Herman Miller living office collection. Bell is adapting to the way people are living and working now, and the furniture was made for this new way of working.”

Bell Works has created an urban experience in suburbia. The multi-use community is designed for commercial use, perfect for startups and entrepreneurs. The space produces inspiration, innovation, and creation at every turn. For information about booking the space for photography or events, visit

Why an NYC VC with Silicon Valley Ties is Heading to NJ

“The difference between success and failure is so little sometimes,” said Bhatti. “Our mission is to help them with strategic steps to build a solid foundation to succeed.”

Venture capitalist Jay Bhatti believes New Jersey could become the ideal environment for startups. That’s why he’s bringing a new venture to the Garden State to the newly-revived Bell Works building, a multi-use community designed for commercial use in Holmdel.

The move is a return to his home coast. Bhatti’s parents immigrated to New Jersey from India when he was five years old. Bhatti is convinced that if the state continues to invest in big, bold ideas, it will be a center for innovation like Silicon Valley and the ideal place for startups.

Bhatti will make his new venture capitalist (VC) startup’s home at Bell Works, built for creative problem solvers, business owners and innovative technologists. The former home of Bell Labs, the Eero Saarinen-designed space is under redevelopment as a work play space. Flooded with light and charged with the innovation work it’s housed over the decade, its tagline is #workinspired.

Bhatti, a graduate of Rutgers University, spent time in the tech sector before taking a risk with his own startup Spock in Silicon Valley. After a successful run as a people search engine, the company was bought out and Bhatti began his own venture capitalist journey.

“I remember sitting in the library in high school reading tech books and dreaming of working at Microsoft,” said Bhatti. “After being there four years, I decided to do something on my own, and not get too comfortable in the position I was in.”

From entrepreneur to funder

After Silicon Valley, Bhatti made the jump to New York City where he co-founded BrandProject, a consumer investment company. The idea behind the firm is to give financial and operational resources to startups engaging in disruptive innovation.

“We love companies that are ditching the stodgy way of doing things and coming up with impressive ideas and products,” Bhatti said. “Knock the old dinosaur out, replace it with a great new idea.”

You can see the disruptive innovation in the firm’s client Owlet, a baby monitor in the form of a sock that monitors an infant’s vital signs — a product that has already been credited with saving babies’ lives. Freshly, another client, adds a health and weight loss angle to the fresh food delivery market. Both companies solve real problems, something Bhatti and his team look for.

“The difference between success and failure is so little sometimes,” said Bhatti. “Our mission is to help them with strategic steps to build a solid foundation to succeed.”

The future of innovation in New Jersey

Bhatti’s return to New Jersey to start a new firm is rooted in his belief that the state can establish itself as a center for innovation and nurture startups.

To do this, two things need to happen, he said.

First, the state needs to incentivize entrepreneurs to set up shop in New Jersey.

“If New Jersey becomes more aggressive and shows interest in investing in bold ideas, more venture capitalists may be enticed to come here,” said Bhatti.

Secondly, New Jersey must use existing companies doing interesting and innovative things to help create a startup environment.

“This state has so many executives and companies doing great things,” said Bhatti. “Take those executives and have them invest in the venture capitalist community and make New Jersey a climate that startups can thrive in.”

With the state’s proximity to great schools and Ivy League talent, he thinks New Jersey would do well to keep those talents right here at home.  At Bell, he sees a pedigree of innovation to build on with that young talent without the expense of New York City and Silicon Valley.

“This place has so much invention history,” said Bhatti. “People don’t want to be in a cubicle in the startup environment. At Bell Works and Vi Collaboration Hub, you can get beautiful office space with zero distraction, so people can focus on their job.”

Advice for startups

On January 6, Bhatti shared some of his lessons for entrepreneurs seeking investors at Success Stories of a Venture Capitalist, a MeetUp presentation held at Bell Works.

To those seeking funding for their companies and products, he said, “Find out what you do well and focus on doing that even better.”

Here’s a sample of Bhatti’s advice to entrepreneurs looking to launch their own company:

  • Think big
  • Be committed
  • Focus
  • Move fast
  • Learn from mistakes
  • Don’t forget about profits
  • Protect your reputation
  • Pick a great team
  • Have a good attitude

Bhatti’s top five things venture capitalists care about in a concept:

  • Product
  • Market
  • Team
  • Business Model
  • Fit with Venture Capitalist Firm

Bhatti’s five things venture capitalists look for in a founder

  • Honesty
  • Drive (work ethic, discipline, gets things done)
  • Intelligence (quick learner, industry knowledge)
  • Scalable Adoptability (improve themselves as company grows)
  • Leadership (motivate others and leverage assets)