First Look: United Community Bank moves into former Erwin Penland building with room to grow

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United Community Bank has nearly doubled its operations office space, moving over the past few weeks from 18,000 square feet in RiverPlace to the 30,000-square-foot former Erwin Penland (EP + Co.) building at 125 E. Broad St., mirroring the growth of the entire company.

“We’re about 60 percent occupied because we wanted to have room for growth,” said Lynn Harton, CEO. “We’ve doubled in the last five years as a company, so having a place with a little expansion room is good.”

That growth has followed a steady pattern in recent years, he said.

“Our growth has been partially organic and part through merging and acquisitions,” Harton said. “We generally grow $300-500 million a year organically in assets. Over the last several years, we’ve done $1.5 billion a year in acquisitions, and we think the environment’s good to continue that over the next several years.”

Currently, 85 employees, the majority of whom are in the mortgage and loan departments supporting the entire footprint of the company based in Blairsville, Ga., occupy the three-story office, which seats 165.

“Most people would keep operations and those kinds of teams — probably put those out in the suburbs where it’s cheaper,” Harton said. “We felt like we wanted it downtown for several reasons. One is it’s closer to me and the rest of the team [in the ONE Building]. We think downtown’s a great amenity and helps us get better employees, and frankly we’re very committed to Greenville, and I know getting more office employees downtown is a big objective, and rightfully so, for the city, and we wanted to support that.”

The bank also had the opportunity to own the property, which was a benefit, Harton said. They closed on the building May 9 and began demolition in July.

“Our growth has been partially organic and part through merging and acquisitions,” Harton said. “We generally grow $300-500 million a year organically in assets. Over the last several years, we’ve done $1.5 billion a year in acquisitions, and we think the environment’s good to continue that over the next several years.”

The interior of the completely renovated — down to the studs — three-story building bears almost no resemblance to the former ad and marketing agency occupant — most notably the red spiral staircase and basketball goal have been removed — but the exposed, bright red pipes remain.

Harton said it worked with the corporate branding to keep that one aspect, while the rest of the building is clean white with navy or “United blue” accent walls.

Motivational quotes, either found or verbalized by a UCB executive, decorate the lobby walls, and photo prints of iconic views from the areas in which the bank operates in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Tennessee are hung in each office.

The center of each floor includes executive offices as well as some small flex-use rooms, with open groups of cubicles surrounding the permanent spaces. A sound-masking system keeps the decibel level and distractions in the open office space at bay.

Two conference rooms on each floor with Cisco video conferencing systems are a tangible means of viewing the company’s growth.

“Being distributed like we are, one of the ways we all keep together is through our video conferencing units,” Harton said.

UCB has two senior leadership meetings a year, and with the video capability, was recently able to include 85 people in 10 locations. Harton said saving on travel expenses is a main benefit of investing in the double-screen units.

“You can pay for one of those double screens with the savings from just one meeting,” Harton said.

 

Project Partners:
General contractor – Rescom (Joe McLaughlin)
Architect/CA – McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture (Tom Lockhart/Tony Peters)
Furniture – Young Office (all new furniture)
Artwork/logos/creed – TPM & Crawford Strategy
Project manager – Jill Day, executive assistant to Lynn Harton, CEO

Timeline:
Closing date: May 9, 2017
Demo began: Beginning of July
Construction began: Beginning of August
Moved in three different phases between Nov. 3 and Dec. 1

 
 


 
 


 
 

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