After eight weeks of work, construction crews have finished one of the largest hurdles in the $20 million face-lift of Bank of America Plaza at the crossroads of uptown Charlotte.
Last week, crews with Rodgers Builders laid cement after removing the 100-foot-long safe in the old banking vault. The walls on this safe were 3 feet thick. Workers had to remove two doors weighing about 30,000 pounds apiece.
“That was huge,” said Ryan Duke of Rodgers Builders. “It was a massive vault.”
But with the safe out and the old steel beams removed, the heavy demolition phase is complete, said Randy Marin, the project manager. The workers have started the framing and will be installing glass panels this week.
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The 40-story office tower was the tallest building in Charlotte when it was built more than four decades ago. It sits on the southeast corner of Trade and Tryon streets, and its renovation is meant to address a longtime concern of city officials: a lack of uptown street-level retail.
The biggest challenge in redesigning the building is that it was never intended to attract passers-by, said Richard Boswell, architect of the renovations.
“The original design intentionally ignored the sidewalk, and its primary function for the first floor was a bank lobby,” Boswell said. “The building was surrounded (by) ... holly bushes that served as a moat around the building.”
The building’s previous ground floor was made up of black, reflective glass that didn’t allow passers-by to see into the building. The new glass is one of the many style choices Boswell made to modernize the building.
“We’re trying to give it a pedestrian feel,” Boswell said. “Something that approaches the street and creates retail space that creates a more enlivened environment around the square.”
Even the LED lighting on the roof of the ground floor is intended to draw people to the new retail space at night. The open area on the corner, with its familiar “Grande Disco” sculpture by Italian artist Arnaldo Pomodoro, will not be affected by construction.
Talks are underway with new tenants, but no names have been disclosed.
Charlotte-based Redline Design Group is heading the project, which leasing brokers hope will enhance the desirability of the office space.
“What we are doing with this renovation is ... opening up the facade to create street interaction with retail fronts along the sidewalk,” he said. This will “set up a more inviting experience for the future.”
Uncovering NCNB signs
The Bank of America Plaza building opened in 1974 as the new headquarters for Bank of America predecessor NCNB. Upon stripping the building, construction workers actually found old NCNB signs on the pillars. When the rapidly growing bank built this tower, city leaders were working to revive uptown and lure businesses back.
Today, construction is booming in uptown Charlotte, with apartments, office towers and hotels under construction. Crews worked to ensure that business continues uninterrupted for the companies in Bank of America Plaza.
The 891,000-square-foot building is 92 percent leased, with tenants that include Bank of America, Alston & Bird and SCOR Global Life Americas.
Before starting renovations on the office lobby, crews built a new, temporary lobby with access to the elevators from the back side.
In April, that lobby was complete, and workers began to gut the inside of the main entranceway. Once the new office lobby is complete, it will be over 2,000 square feet larger than it was previously.
Completion expected by April 2017
Aside from the bones of the building, the existing Loredo Chiaro Marble from Italy – marble from the original construction – will remain.
“It’s one of those timeless pieces of art that you have on the wall. You don’t want to get rid of that,” Duke said. “We’ve covered it up just to protect it.”
Marin said construction is on track to be completed by April 2017.
This isn’t the only location adding retail space at Trade and Tryon. A project across the street, at 101 Independence Center, will include updates to and expansion of the tower’s lobby, as well as new retail tenants.
As for new tenants at the Plaza, nothing has been finalized for the four available retail spaces, said Molly Carroll, director of marketing for Trinity Partners, which is handling the leasing. But she said the storefronts will be able to handle restaurants or other retailers.
“We’re preparing it for all the opportunities,” Carroll said.
Rachel Stone: 704-358-5334, @RStone1317