Cover Story: Duke Energy Center Now Open

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A gleaming spire on Charlotte's skyline, the Duke Energy Center.  The newest jewel in the Queen City's crown.

It's hard to imagine the skyline without the glass and marble structure.

But in the middle of the 2008 financial crisis the tower was half-finished - still called the Wachovia Corporate Center - a monument to the future that wasn't to be for Charlotte's number two bank.

Wachovia was building the tower but once the bank lost its headquarters and was sold to Wells Fargo Corp. the bank didn't need all the space.

A chance meeting between two CEOs walking their dogs paved the way.

It's a mark on the Charlotte skyline you can't miss.

Forty-eight floors, nearly 800 feet tall, the second-tallest skyscraper between Atlanta and Philly right after the Bank of America Corporate Center.

And Friday it was the day to show it off.

A who's who of Charlotte from business, education and politics gathered in a huge atrium on the 46th floor near the top to mark the unveiling.

"We want to make this a public space."

It's the first high-rise office tower in the country to receive LEED Platinum status for energy efficiency for the building and the way the offices are configured.

The floors have plenty of open space.  There's glass from the ceiling to floor.  Lights dim and the blinds automatically adjust depending on sunlight.

There are TVs built into the walls.  And monitors that show the energy being used and saved compared to other high rises.

"When did you actually move in? I moved in about a month ago."

Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers took us on a tour of the executive suites.  And showed us his favorite art piece outside his office.

"Balls in the air.. symbolism it feels like my life."

Rogers has a lot on his plate:  the demands of running a company, managing a merger with Progress Energy and co-chairing the DNC Host Committee.

It's called the Duke Energy Center even though Wachovia still owns it - a recognition of Duke taking over most of the tower.

The high-rise is only part of the project.  It also includes three museums and a theater and street level retail is on the horizon.

Said Bob Bertges, a senior vice president for Wells Fargo's real estate division, "I think honestly this project has exceeded everyone's expectations. It's overwhelming to see the number of people who are coming day in and day out and being touched by this."

It was to be the Wachovia's corporate headquarters.  But once it had to be rescued by Wells Fargo, the San Francisco-based bank didn't need all the space.

Jim Rogers happened to meet Wachovia's then CEO Bob Steele one day in their neighborhood and offered to take over what the bank didn't want.

What if Duke hadn't stepped up to the plate?

"It's hard to predict what would have been, but the good news is that we had an opportunity to step up and make it what it is," said Rogers.

Duke Energy occupies 22 floors of the tower and achieves long-time CEO Bill Lee's dream to have a Tryon Street address.

Wachovia now Wells Fargo has a presence in the building.  In fact the bank announced last month it's going to move its trading floor business to the new tower.

The building is 97-percent leased.

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