August 5, 2008
While Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) sheds some execs, including CEO Pat Russo, the company is also unloading a key piece of real estate -- the old Bell Labs site.
The Star-Ledger of New Jersey reported on Sunday that Somerset Development has signed a contract for the 473-acre site in Holmdel, N.J.
Ralph Zucker, president of the real estate development firm, is quoted saying he's planning on creating retail and residential space -- but doing so inside the 2-million-square-foot Bell Labs building.
That's a big deal, because the building was designed by Eero Saarinen, a famous Finnish architect and champion vowel collector. An earlier deal that would have demolished most of the building led to fierce protest from scientists, preservationists, and architects.
The building has lost its past glory in more ways than one. Physically, it's in disrepair: The Star-Ledger uses words such as "vines" and "puddles" to describe the inside, and a photograph shows a courtyard gone to seed.
Then, there's the history, of course. Bell Labs scientists came up with ideas such as the transistor, the laser, the solar cell, the picturephone (in 1970!), and, of course, fiber optics.
Bell Labs also hosted pure research at a level beyond that found in corporations today. That included studies in fields such as radio astronomy, where researchers inadvertently ended up finding the background radiation predicted by the Big Bang theory.
Much of Bell Labs' work was related to U.S. national defense, too, which is one reason why the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) was so interested in the 2006 merger of Lucent and Alcatel. (See US to Watch Alcatel Lucent.)
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading
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