Clothing company Club Colors has agreed to lease 52,000 square feet and establish its national headquarters at Bell Works Chicagoland, the largest transaction to date on the former AT&T campus at Hoffman Estates.

It’s a big step forward for Inspired by Somerset Development, the New Jersey developer that bought the empty 1.6 million square foot complex in 2019 and envisioned transforming it from a sterile corporate environment into a a “metroburb”, a community center for tenants and residents of the northwestern suburbs.

“We all want it to succeed because it’s not just an office building, or even an office building with a few retail businesses,” said Kevin Kramer, director of economic development for Hoffman Estates. “We don’t really have a downtown, so we see this as our downtown, a downtown under one roof.”

Village officials considered numerous proposals for the vacant property when AT&T left in 2016, including creating a public university or shopping center, but Somerset won them over, promising to fill it with renovated offices. , public spaces, walkways, cafes, other commercial and co-working spaces, all surrounded by hundreds of new apartments and townhouses. It was an unusual suggestion, but the developer had experience. Beginning in 2013, the company transformed the former Bell Labs campus in Holmdel, New Jersey into a 2 million square foot mixed-use complex after attracting dozens of tenants.

The pandemic has put a big hurdle on the company’s efforts, but with major tenants such as Club Colors back on the market for new spaces, the momentum is returning, Kramer said.

“These 40,000 to 50,000 square foot tenants are moving the needle,” Kramer said. “A lot of companies are looking for new spaces where they can grow, but they also need attractive spaces where people really want to go, and that’s Bell Works.

Heritage-Crystal Clean, an Elgin-based environmental services company, agreed to a long-term lease at Bell Works Chicagoland this spring and in August will relocate its 180 employees to 39,000 square feet. Existing tenants include Platinum Home Mortgage, Headline Solar, CPA Advisors Group, a local mosquito control company and a crowdfunding company.

“The metroburb is unique in our market and we believe it is superior to any other option,” Jeff Baumet, co-CEO of now Schaumburg-based Club Colors, said in a statement. “This new home allows us to provide amenities such as child care, fitness centers, restaurants and a wide range of other businesses to our entire team, from sales to operations.”

The northwest suburban office market needs a boost. Its vacancy rate soared to nearly 30% just before the pandemic after several large employers, including Motorola Solutions, left for new digs in downtown Chicago, and hit 34.9% earlier this year. , according to an April report from Colliers International.

But conditions may soon improve, at least for Class A properties that offer plenty of employee amenities.

“Dealing in best-in-class assets is expected to gain momentum throughout 2022 as employers open offices and bring back employees,” Colliers noted.

Kramer said he expects Bell Works Chicagoland to continue to attract companies that don’t want sterile offices. And Hoffman Estates plans to continue to promote it as the center of village social life.

Several local nonprofits, including the Children’s Advocacy Center and Next Level Northwest, a business accelerator for Hoffman Estates and neighboring municipalities, recently held fundraising galas in the Bell Works atrium.

“It’s a unique place for the suburbs,” Kramer said.