As Greenville-based RealOp Investments looks to expand its portfolio across the Southeast, the real estate private equity firm remains committed to its hometown investments.
The latest example of that commitment is the newly released plans for a series of renovations in the Bank of America Building at 101 N. Main St. in the heart of Greenville’s central business district.
RealOp purchased the 16-story office building in December 2016 from Greenville-based Hughes Development Corp. for $22.5 million. The building built in 1973 has 196,152 square feet of Class A office space with 14,283 square feet of ground-floor retail. CBRE, a tenant, is also managing the building and handling leasing. Other major tenants include Bank of America, iHeart Media, Greenville Chamber’s NEXT on Main program, Southern Management Corporation, Summit Solar, Methodical Coffee, and iStore.
Phase I of the planned improvements entails full first-floor common-area renovations, including the lobby and restrooms. Atlanta-based ASD|SKY, whose portfolio includes clients as prominent as Mailchimp and Dropbox, is spearheading the interior design, and ResCom was hired as general contractor.
Michael Nieswander, ASD|SKY principal in charge of the project, says the goal with the redesign is to freshen up the overall look within the building and give the lobby new life.
“It’s dated, and it’s been that way for years,” he says.
The aesthetic, in keeping with ASD|SKY’s body of work, is driven by clean lines and modern materials, but with Greenville’s history prominently displayed via photos covering whole walls — one of Main at Washington streets in the 1920s looking north in the lobby and another near the elevator of West Washington and Main streets from the mid-1930s.
Paul Sparks, RealOp president and managing principal, says a main purpose for the redesign is to activate and update all of the common areas to be more useful and attractive for tenant usage in order to foster a collaborative environment.
The choice to start with the lobby was based on its being the most visible to the general public, Sparks says.
Likely the only area that will be used heavily by the public is the lobby, which has been redesigned with Methodical Coffee customers, specifically, in mind, because they often use the lobby and outdoor plaza for overflow seating when the shop is busy.
“I think these renovations will better serve the building’s tenants as well as offer our guests a more inviting and enjoyable option when all our seats are occupied,” says Marco Suarez, Methodical Coffee co-owner. “So yes, I think we’re all looking forward to the updates.”
Much of the construction, slated to begin within the first quarter, will take place just outside Methodical’s interior entrance to the lobby.
“Construction won’t impact our service of customers,” Suarez says. “We’re working with the building management to ensure noise is kept to a minimum during business hours.”
Chip Hunt, asset manager at RealOp, says priorities for the project are minimizing tenant disruption, maintaining access throughout the building, and reaching completion as quickly as feasibly possible. Planned completion is the spring.
“We are very excited to see our strategic plan and vision finally to come to life at the building,” Hunt says. “Through extensive collaboration with our design, construction, leasing, and management teams, we are confident that the project will dramatically improve building aesthetics and the overall tenant experience, further enhancing the building’s presence on One City Plaza.”
This announcement makes the Bank of America Building the second building of similar size on Main Street with Class A office space to undergo lobby and tenant-focused renovations within the last year. The first, the Wells Fargo Center at South Main and East Washington streets, also purchased in December 2016, is currently undergoing improvements announced in July 2017.
Potential subsequent phases under consideration for the Bank of America Building include building conference facilities, enhanced building entry, signage at the foot of ONE City Plaza, and outside gathering area improvements to include rooftop space, but none of these have been confirmed, RealOp’s Sparks says.
The building is currently about 75 percent occupied, with two full-floor availabilities, plus smaller space options on the multi-tenant floors. According to CBRE’s Q4 2017 Greenville-Spartanburg Office MarketView, the downtown vacancy rate of 14.5 percent is indicative of the shortage of office space and little new office construction in the pipeline.
“The surrounding plaza, vibrant retail, and office environments and sheer proximity within the CBD [central business district] will only further improve the building’s already unique position in the market,” says Blaine Hart, first vice president at CBRE. “Because of the Bank of America Building’s prime location, the upcoming renovations, and an aggressive leasing plan, we project the remaining vacancies at the property to quickly dissipate.”
Sparks says the improvements will bring the building in line with the competition around the market.
“It opens more doors,” he says. “Tenants looking for Main on Main — it makes their decision easier with a lower per-square-foot rent.”
Bank of America Building
Owner/developer: RealOp, purchased in December 2016 for $22.5M from Hughes Development Corp.
Square footage: 196,151 of Class A office space; 14,283 ground-floor retail
Major tenants: Bank of America, CBRE, iHeart Media, Greenville Chamber’s NEXT on Main program, Southern Management Corporation, Summit Solar, Methodical Coffee, and iStore
Occupancy rate: approx. 75 percent
Managing and leasing: CBRE
Interior design: ASD|SKY
General contractor: ResCom