Development

Charlotte’s newest office tower, opening next month, makes a statement on the city’s skyline

615 South College
615 South College

The newest building on Charlotte’s skyline isn’t the world’s flashiest office tower, but its designers think it makes a statement and holds its own on uptown’s southern edge.

Developed by Portman Holdings, 615 South College is set to officially open May 18. The 18-story building is going for a LEED Gold energy efficiency rating, with features such as light fixtures that react and dim in response to the daylight coming through floor-to-ceiling windows and high-performance glass sheathing the building. The building features the wide-open floor plans and large floor plates popular in today’s offices.

“It’s an aesthetic of construction where you use the least amount of materials to achieve the highest result,” said the building’s architect Gordon Beckman, of John Portman & Associates. The new office building is next to the Westin, and built on what used to be the top of a parking deck.

Portman also developed the Westin, which opened in 2003. Beckman said the hotel informed the company’s design for 615 South College.

“It respects the Westin, but it’s unique,” said Beckman. “It shares some of the same vocabulary.”

Both buildings have horizontal strips running at regular intervals across their glass facades. And the Westin’s “notches” on either end of the building helped inspire the most distinctive feature at 615 South College: The column-free, cut-out terraces on each side of the building.

cutouts
The exterior of 615 South College. Ely Portillo

“It was a natural evolution” from the Westin’s notches, Beckman said. And while you might imagine the two-story terraces were especially tricky to design and build, he said they were actually simple. The building is supported by the same grid of columns that the original parking garage was built with. To construct larger floor plates, the building’s floors and exterior walls were built 15 feet beyond that grid of columns. All the designers had to do to create the cut-out terraces was not extend the floor plates in those sections.

“This is a natural outgrowth of working with the column grid,” Beckman said, standing on the 17th floor terrace.

The color of the blue-green glass facade will seem to shift with the weather, Beckman said.

“On a nice blue day, it’s very blue,” said Beckman. “Come here on a gray day, and it’s a totally different character.”

Gov. Pat McCrory returns to Charlotte for groundbreaking of 615 South College office tower.

Tenants who’ve leased space at the building include Regions Bank, co-working space WeWork and accounting firm BDO. Construction started on the building in August 2015.

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615 South College construction in March 2016. T. Ortega Gaines ogaines@charlotteobserver.com

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo

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