Editor's Note: Mayor Patrick Impreveduto's statements about dormitories on the Lucent campus were clarified from an earlier version of this story, to make clear the proposed dorms would stand separately from the existing building.]
Alcatel-Lucent is in talks with a new buyer for its valuable property on Crawfords Corner Road, say township officials.
After working with contract-buyer Somerset Development for the past three years on a mixed use development plan, Alcatel-Lucent is now talking with a potential buyer who wants to purchase the 472-acre property and turn it into a sports center, said Mayor Patrick Impreveduto.
Impreveduto confirmed the development, as reported in the November issue of the Holmdel Journal. The Journal quotes an Alcatel-Lucent spokeswoman as saying that Somerset declined to match the new buyer's bid.
The future of the 2-million square foot famed Bell Labs building and its pastoral surroundings is of great interest in Holmdel, because the property was once the township's largest ratable. In 1997, Lucent paid $4.5 million in tax revenue to the town. It was vacated in 2008. Now it generates just $525,000 a year in tax revenue, according to Township Planner Jennifer Beahm of CME Associates.
Township officials are anxious to get the property re-developed and back on the tax rolls. The township business administrator has begun the 2012 budget process, and the hunt will be on for revenue. In June, the Township Committee's Finance sub-Committee predicted that Holmdel will face a devastating $2.3 million budget shortfall.
In August, Mayor Impreveduto and Deputy Mayor Serena DiMaso met with a Lucent property manager who came to Town Hall with representatives of four different organizations acting as one buyer for the property. "I had a meet-and-greet with them," said Impreveduto. "It was a quick conversation. They said they had intentions of keeping the building." The mayor also said there would be "a dormitory for kids to stay."
"The impression I had was that it might be a camp for athletes," he said.
Impreveduto said he did not know the names of the buyers. He said that the buyers did not have a solid plan to present back in August. "That’s why I’ve been calling Lucent every week to say, 'Have they presented a plan yet?'"
Said DiMaso, "They said it will be sports complex with some retail, not too much different than what Ralph Zucker will do." Zucker, the President of Somerset Development, presented his "town square" proposal to the public in June. It included preserving the Lucent building and incorporating elements of medical services, retail, office, sports fields, restaurants, lodging, a library, 100 age-targeted apartments and 30 single family homes. When completed, the property could produce $4.7 million in ratables, he said.
Township Committeeman Eric Hinds is on the Alcatel-Lucent Development sub-committee with Impreveduto. Hinds said he was not present at the August meeting because he was on vacation, but when he returned he was filled in. "They had a golf course, softball fields, and a sports dome for basketball courts," he said.
Township Committeeman Larry Fink said he did not know any details and that all he knew was that the potential buyer was interested in creating a "sports center" or "sports complex."
Holmdel Township has no say in who gets to buy the Alcatel-Lucent property. But it does have some control on how the property can be used. This year the Township Committee has designated the property in need of rehabilitation, because they say it is underutilized, deteriorating and in substandard condition. The designation gives the township flexibility on determining the future use of the facility. They continue to work on a redevelopment plan, and hope to have it finished by the end of the year, said Impreveduto at the October 20 Township Committee meeting.
Although the Committee at the public meeting in June, he said the township has not tried to contact the developer since they learned Alcatel-Lucent is speaking to another buyer. "There is a confidentiality agreement" among the three parties, he said.
In a statement emailed to Patch Wednesday, Zucker said Somerset Development was "proud of the level of consensus we have been able to build among the community’s stakeholders to support the preservation and adaptive reuse of this property into a great public place and a significant source of tax ratables."
"Although recently, Lucent made a decision to pursue a different course with regard to the property's redevelopment, we remain ready, willing and able to execute the viable plan we put forth for the site," Zucker said.