Next to the Westin hotel, a new office tower is nearly ready to open

A rendering of 615 South College, in front of the Duke Energy Center.
A rendering of 615 South College, in front of the Duke Energy Center.

On uptown’s southern edge, a new office tower sheathed in gray-green glass is getting ready to open next to a hotel and light rail station: 615 South College Street.

Developer Portman Holdings broke ground on the building in August 2015. Located atop the parking deck adjacent to the Westin hotel, also developed by Portman, the building is topped out and crews are finishing installation of exterior glass, building systems and interiors on the lower floors.

The $122 million tower was started on a speculative basis, with no anchor tenant. In September, Regions Bank signed a lease for almost 64,000 square feet. Trinity Partners is leasing the building along with Portman. The tower has about 308,000 square feet left on the market, including the top floors.

Real estate research firm CoStar Group had been looking at taking space in the building, but instead chose last month to expand in Richmond, Va., a move local real estate sources attributed to concerns about House Bill 2, the state’s LGBT legislation.

The building is set to open in March. The red crane that’s towered over the site for months is set to come down in mid-December, said Bob Bachtler, a project manager at Holder Construction.

The Westin opened in 2003, with the city investing about $16 million, or 10 percent of the project’s cost. It’s Charlotte’s largest hotel, with 700 rooms. The parking deck next to the Westin was always meant to accommodate a building on top. Travis Garland of Portman said the company originally intended to build a smaller office building there, totaling about 200,000 square feet, then switched to the idea of developing condominiums in 2006.

But Portman didn’t break ground before the economic crash and recession, and when the economy rebounded the project went back to being an office tower, Garland said.

One reason the developer was comfortable going forward on a speculative basis and construction has gone quickly: The parking deck was already in place.

“Building garages is extremely expensive,” said Garland, who estimated the parking deck would cost $35,000 per space to build today. Still, the preparatory work was extensive, with workers drilling about 9,000 holes in the existing concrete for new structures, driving hundreds of micro-pilings dozens of feet deep to support the added weight of the new structure and demolishing about 25,000 square feet of the parking deck.

The building will have direct access to the Stonewall Station light rail stop on the Blue Line, a major selling point. Across the platform, developer Crescent Communities is deep into construction on another high-profile project tied to the same light rail stop. Crescent Stonewall Station, parts of which are scheduled to open next year, will include 450 apartments, a Whole Foods grocery store and two hotels.

“That has really resonated with potential tenants,” said John Ball of Trinity Partners.

Two more office developments could soon be taking shape down the street from 615 South College. At Stonewall and Tryon streets, Crescent Communities is set to begin site work in January on Tryon Place, a mixed-use development built around a 700,000 square foot office tower that’s planned for completion in 2019. And across the street from that, on the former Charlotte Observer site, Lincoln Harris and Goldman Sachs are planning a major mixed-use development with at least 1 million square feet of office space.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo