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Alcatel-Lucent Contract Buyer Is 'Happy To Be Back in the Driver's Seat'

Ralph Zucker of Somerset Development is moving swiftly to close on the deal by the end of the year.

After four years of working on a complex mixed use plan for development of the 473-acre Alcatel Lucent property on Crawfords Corner Road in Holmdel, Ralph Zucker, the president of Somerset Development, lost control of the project last Febrary when a Florida real estate investment firm trumped his offer with a better one.  

At the time, Zucker made a public statement that he would be willing and able to return to step back in as the master developer, if circumstances changed. Elsie Sterling Oversight, meanwhile, reached out to Zucker and asked if he would be interested in rehabilitating the huge Bell Labs building, and there were discussions. 

But when the deal between the Sterling Oversight and Alcatel-Lucent fell apart recently, Zucker seized the opportunity. Last week he signed a contract with Alcatel-Lucent. He has plans to close the deal by the end of the year, if not sooner. "We're pleased to be back in the driver's seat, no doubt about it," he said in an interview Thursday.

Zucker's mixed use plan for the prime property and four buildings was introduced to Holmdel on June 15, 2011 by Mayor Patrick Impreveduto at a presentation at the Community Center, attended by 125 people. (See videos). Somerset Development also held an open house in the Bell Labs building in September 2009, attended by more than 1,000 people. 

The township's Alcatel-Lucent Redevelopment Plan, a vision statement crafted by Holmdel professionals and elected officials that describes community priorities for the site, is the framework Zucker must work within. "It's a plan we've been advocating for," he said. "We're not looking to do anything except for what's in the Redevelopment Plan." 

The construction of up to 40 single family large-lot homes and 185 age-restricted townhomes, all connected by sewers, is permitted at the site under the Redevelopment Plan.

"We have no intention to seek any relief or add any density," Zucker said.  "It is a very large site with wetlands, and wetlands buffers, so the space for housing is limited," he said.

His vision for the huge vacant building and outlying buidings is to tranform the complex into an "animated, great public space" with a focus on health and wellness services, a surgi-center, a variety of office tenants, retail shops, a health club, coffee shop, a hotel, and a township library facility. Zucker said he has the interest of a "significant medical user" which he would not name, and the firm is "actively engaged in talking with potential tenants" and "one or two hotel operators." 

Somerset's next step is to complete a site plan for the enormous 1/4 mile-long building. "We are looking to do that towards beginning of next year, to flesh out specific details," he said.  

A negotiated Redevelopment Agreement, a pact between a municipality and the developer for an "area in need of redevelopment," is also in the works, which will allow Somerset to sign leases with tenants at the appropriate time in the process. The agreement can also prevent the developer from "sitting" on the property, among other things, and is required by law, said Zucker.   

"It’s a complicated site and we’ve spent a lot of time and money studying it," said Zucker. "We have a very nice competent team. Everybody put their heart and soul into it. We're gratified that at the end of the day we think the reason we are back as a contract purchaser is because we have the best understanding of Holmdel's vision, and how to work with the site."

Nick J. October 19, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Carol, I can't speak for the other people, but just because you choose to use your real name doesn't make what you write to be the gospel. We all care about what will ultimately happen at Lucent and as long as the administration keeps the public informed along the way and allows for that public input, what more do you want? Do you really think that this will not be a give and take process? Of course it will as NOBODY will get everything they want. It's called compromise and that's what will ultimately happen here. And exactly what do you have in stake in what happens at Lucent? Please tell us.
TY PENNINGTON October 19, 2012 at 02:50 PM
I hate to break it to nicole but the fact that 15 show up has nothing to do with trusting the mayor - it’s that people don’t give a crap. Other than this lonely old bored carol person. The property will be developed, whatever can net the builder the biggest profit will go there and everyone will get their payoffs - plain and simple. It is the NJ way.
Tony Orsini October 19, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Didn't see the video yet, could not attend due to work related matters, but glad you liked Ralph. He is one of the most knowledgeable land use men in Holmdel. He had been appointed by Larry Fink and served as Planning Board Chairman until he was not reappointed by Republicans after 2004. There was a tremendous "brain drain" from the Planning Board at that time in favor of agenda driven land use policy.
Tony Orsini October 19, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Nick labors under the concept that if you repeat a lie often enough, folks will believe it. So I guess we'll just keep saying "senior housing" is not etched in stone. Besides, I and many others could qualify for senior housing, but I have 2 children in the school system. Panacea v. Trojan horse.
Tony Orsini October 19, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Nick did not go to school when there were bullying rules, so dont berate him. He's just an Impreveduto sycophant.
LarryLuttrell October 19, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Nicole, if you privately email me, I would be happy to explain to you the reason I suspect you are posting under a pseudonym. LarryLuttrell@lwlpc.com. Having said that, I fully support your desire to remain anonymous in exercising your First Amendment right to freedom of speech. However, please remember that this right is not a license to slander someone. I have NEVER lied and your insinuation that I did is malicious. You owe me an apology.
Tony Orsini October 19, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Wow, Ty. That is so cynical. But the history of Holmdel shows just the opposite. A few knowledgeable, determined folks can chance the face of a town. Look at what happened with the 400 acre Chase Tract, Ty: a bonafide environmental Hail Mary!
Nick J. October 19, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Hey Tony, READ MY LIPS, it's against the law as it stands today to convert senior housing to regular housing. I realize that law might be hard for you to comprehend, but it is clear to the rest of us in Holmdel. You Democrats are just like your leader Obama, but here in Holmdel the puppet master Orsini pulls the strings....except with senior housing where he pulled Luttrell's wrong string.
Tony Orsini October 19, 2012 at 03:30 PM
When all is said and done, the decision about WHO you trust to make the land use decisions. Anyone can say anything, with honest intent or political expediency. So far decisions made have not been optimal. I expect more of the same. My vote goes to the guy who knows the macroeconomics of development profit and cost (Levinson) and the land use attorney who kicked the butt of sandy Hook developers (Luttrell).
Tony Orsini October 19, 2012 at 03:31 PM
correction: that would be "change the face of a town."
LarryLuttrell October 19, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Nick J.: You have absolutely no basis to allege that I started a rumor. I did no such thing and your allegation to that affect is malicious. As I reminded another blogger operating under a pseudonym above, our first amendment right to free speech is not a license to slander another person. While you have the right to voice your opinion behind the veil of anonymity, please remember this on your future posts: Your internet service provider, IP address and true identity are only a complaint and one subpoena away from me. I make a living based on my integrity and I will stop at no costs to defend it.
Nick J. October 19, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Hey Tony such big words. I actually had to use my Thesaurus in Word. Too bad your reading comprehension skills are lacking, as you can't grasp the fact that converting senior housing is against the law.
Nick J. October 19, 2012 at 03:42 PM
Mr. Luttrell, you provided two links to the public regarding senior housing. As another blogger first pointed out, the law today does not apply. Plain and simple.
LarryLuttrell October 19, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Nick J: The conversion of age restricted housing is NOT unlawful and no longer impossible. When first enacted in 2008, The Permit Extension Act, which allows builders to preserve their development approvals beyond their expiration dates, originally had a deadline of July 1, 2010. However, that Act has already been amended several times to expand the extension through January of 2014. Despite our differences as to the inclusion of the residential development, I believe both the Mayor and I are all in agreement of ensuring that the town homes allowed in the Plan remain age restricted. Given that we are both aware of the tendency of Trenton to give into pressure from lobbyists, any Redevelopment Agreement with any developer should include language which prevents conversion of the age restricted housing to non-age restricted EVEN if the legislature and the Governor amend the 2009 enabling statute. That issue WAS NOT put to rest by the township attorney last night during the meeting, although my conversation with the Mayor after the meeting leads me to believe that we are on the same page. Accordingly, I now trust that the Mayor will work toward that common goal.
LarryLuttrell October 19, 2012 at 06:42 PM
"holmdeldad": Please explain to the readers the basis of your bold allegations above. Specifically, what lies, distortion and blame have been said and from whom do you allege has made them? I understand that this may take you more than one complete sentence, but doesn't your credibility depend upon it? #Don'tBelieveTheHype
LarryLuttrell October 19, 2012 at 06:43 PM
I agree with you 100% here, Nick J. (I think pigs are now flying).
LarryLuttrell October 19, 2012 at 06:51 PM
I also agree with you Mr. Boyd. The Patch did a great job here and I have a lot of faith in Mr. Hinds and Mr. Buontempo as well. This property has been a tough monster to tame.
steve h October 19, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Re: Jon Boyd’s comment….”They stopped all political rumors like if you live near Lucent you will need to tie into the sewer line( the attorney and town engineer explained that not true).” According 18-2.7Use of Public Sewers Required Holmdel Township ...Use of Public Sewers Required. d.The owner of each house, building or property used for human occupancy, employment, recreation or other purposes, SITUATED WITHIN THE TOWNSHIP AND ABUTTING ON ANY STREET, ALLEY OR RIGHT-OF-WAY IN WHICH THERE IS NOW LOCATED OR MAY IN THE FUTURE BE LOCATED A PUBLIC SANITARY SEWER OF THE TOWNSHIP, IS HEREBY REQUIRED AT HIS EXPENSE TO INSTALL SUITABLE TOILET FACILITIES THEREIN AND TO CONNECT SUCH FACILITIES DIRECTLY WITH THE PROPER PUBLIC SEWER IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROVISIONS OF THIS SECTION, WITHIN NINETY (90) DAYS AFTER DATE OF OFFICIAL NOTICE TO DO SO..... e iin this section refers to hardship cases being exempt Could the attorney, engineer, & Mayor's Committee be mistaken or did Mr. Boyd mis-hear at last night’s meeting? Would like to know when and if the above ordinance was amended and if the property owner supposedly does not have to hook up will that owner be subject to the assessment regardless.
Tony Orsini October 19, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Are you a lawyer, Nick? If it HAS HAPPENENED, how can it be against the law?
LarryLuttrell October 19, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Nick J.: Do you really feel that it is warranted to accuse me of being anyone's puppet? Regardless of whatever personal disagreement you have with anyone, why make baseless allegations against me? Please refrain from including me in the petty crossfire. I would advise everyone else to do the same. Tony, please refrain from name calling as to the opposing candidates for the same reasons I have expressed herein.
LarryLuttrell October 19, 2012 at 08:16 PM
John: As I responded in the comments above, it is not impossible for a developer to seek conversion of age restricted housing to non age restricted housing. If the market continues not support the sale of age restricted units, then it is very likely that Trenton will amend the statute to allow developers of projects after 2009 to take advantage of the conversion. For anyone to believe otherwise from Trenton is simply ignoring history.
Nick J. October 19, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Mr. Luttrell, it's nice to have common ground for a discussion. I agree with you 100%, that if it is ultimately agreed upon that senior housing be allowed on the Lucent property, that it can in no way be converted to regular housing. That is in no way in the best interest of Holmdel. I'm glad the Mayor and yourself are in agreement with that, as I'm sure the rest of Holmdel is as well. That was a good suggestion on your part to put it in the developer agreement. Hopefully that would be sufficient.
Nick J. October 19, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Tony, it's against the law TODAY. Just like smoking in a restaurant.
Tony Orsini October 22, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Thick Nick, here's how it HAS HAPPENED: developer comes to the town. "I cannot sell my senior housing, thus, I cannot proceed with developing your ratables. I need to sell them as regular housing." Town caves. Voila, your Trojan horse breaks open and the troops raid the town. Got it, Nick?
Tony Orsini October 22, 2012 at 12:27 AM
...Zoning change. THAT easy.
Nick J. October 22, 2012 at 12:43 AM
You know Tony, if you were paying attention, a previous post by Mr. Luttrell suggested to the Mayor that Holmdel put in the developer agreement that even if the state law changes, that the sr housing cannot be flipped to regular housing. Just remember Tony, flipping sr housing to regular housing is illegal under today's law. If you think it can be changed by zoning, then the people of Holmdel must continue to elect Republicans who would never think of changing the zoning for the betterment of a developer rather than for the betterment of Holmdel. For this year's election, that would be Critelli & Ponisi, candidates with impeccable credentials.
Tony Orsini October 22, 2012 at 01:06 AM
That's really funny, Nick, since in the past Holmdel Rs have taken $ from Spalliero. And if they'd sell open space, they'd sell the town to developers in a heartbeat. Tell me more about Critelli's "impeccable credentials:" I think I know him better than you.
Nick J. October 22, 2012 at 01:39 AM
Tony, that's such a lame and baseless post, that I am so beside myself, there are now two of me. Thank goodness we are about two weeks away from the election, then we will no longer have to hear from you anymore. The good people of Holmdel know what you are about and that will come through with a victory for Critelli and Ponisi.
holmdeldad October 22, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Is tony still trying to sell land again like he did for td bank..
Mrs. G. Kumar January 16, 2013 at 02:23 AM
Over 6,000 people used to work daily in that building. There is no way the amount of traffic that used to go in & out of the former Bell Labs building will ever compare to the new project. Looking forward to something splendid happening to this property! It has been forlorn and vacant for way too long. My husband worked in that building for over 20 years, it was a beautiful place. As a Holmdel resident, we need this property to generate taxes for our town again. With all those acres, is there room for a golf course? That would help the future homes to sell and provide a good use for the land.

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