CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - On the 14th and 15th floors of the new Bank of America tower, employees work in open spaces, in front of floor-to-ceiling windows. Outside those windows, Charlotte’s skyline is extending to the South, in what was mostly empty lots and surface parking less than five years ago.
Bank of America employees started moving into the building this week. Flanked by cranes and construction sites, the 33-story tower is a milestone in a changing Stonewall Street corridor.
The building at 620 South Tryon St. is the first piece of the 10-acre, two-block Legacy Union project that Lincoln Harris is developing in the area along Interstate 277.
Consulting firm Deloitte will anchor another tower in the project, an 18-story office building at 650 South Tryon St. And Honeywell is moving its headquarters to a 23-story building on the site, across from Bank of America Stadium on South Mint Street.
“I think the energy you’re beginning to feel here, it all feeds on itself,” said Charles Bowman, Bank of America’s market president for Charlotte and North Carolina.
A ‘UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY’
Lincoln Harris and partner Goldman Sachs bought the site, once home to the Charlotte Observer’s building, for $37.5 million in 2016.
Johno Harris, president of Lincoln Harris, said the firm was in the right place at the right time when it purchased the land.
At Stonewall and Tryon streets, Crescent Communities is building the 26-story Ally Charlotte Center. Duke Energy is also building a 40-story tower on South Tryon Street.
And now, Panthers owner David Tepper has said he’d like to build a new stadium with a retractable roof in the next decade somewhere around uptown.
“Our vision is that this corridor .. is more than a convention district — it’s a neighborhood. It’s destination retail and entertainment,” said Michael Smith, president and CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners.
Though only two floors are open now, Bank of America will eventually occupy 23 floors in the building, or around 600,000 square feet. Charlotte law firm Parker Poe will move in next year and occupy 86,000 square feet on three floors. KPMG, a network of professional service firms, will also take 46,000 square feet on two floors of the building.
The 850,000-square-foot building is almost 90% leased, Lincoln Harris said. The firm declined to provide the cost of the project. A joint venture of Gilbane and Shelco acted as the general contractor on the project and LS3P was the architect.
Harris said there’s been strong interest in leasing for the Legacy Union buildings. The announcement that BB&T and SunTrust banks will merge and put their new headquarters in Charlotte has had a ripple effect on the real estate market, he added. (The banks will call the merged company Truist.)
“If you look at what has happened with Truist and their move to Charlotte, that has been a major shot in the arm to the real estate and also the financial side of what we do in Charlotte,” he said. “You’ll see other companies that will continue to grow as a result of the sixth largest bank in the country being headquartered in Charlotte.”
Smith said having the office space inventory from the Legacy Union development has helped the city recruit companies. The size of the site makes the development unique, he added.
“To have it all happen within one cycle, requires a lot of absorption and that’s possible because of the job growth,” Smith said.
In addition to the office space, there will be around 50,000 square feet of retail along South Church Street. And future plans for the project call for residences and a hotel.
It’s a new kind of space for Bank of America, which employs around 16,000 in the region, and is headquartered a few blocks away up Tryon Street. Employees who work in the building don’t have assigned seats, and can log in from any work station. There are lockers, booths, common areas and other collaborative spaces.
“This is probably as high tech as we’ve gotten for every employee,” Bowman said.
While the bank has some floors in its other buildings across the country that look similar, Bowman said this is the first large concentration of such a design.
Bank of America will move customer-facing employees from 1 Bank of America Center on North College Street and its headquarters on North Tryon Street into the new building. The bank is also opening a financial center in the building this fall.
The bank worked with Charlotte-based firms Rodgers Builders, Little Diversified Architectural Consulting and CBI Workplace Solutions to build out its space in the new building.
And a 64-by-36 foot video screen greets visitors in the lobby, displaying drone footage of the skyline and North Carolina scenery, a colorful art piece and Bank of America videos. Ryan Ramey, a spokeswoman for Lincoln Harris, called the screen a “ living billboard of Charlotte.”