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615 South College project tops out in Charlotte skyline

Atlanta-based Portman Holdings has moved one step closer to completing a 19-story tower at 615 South College in Charlotte, with the topping-out for the 370,000 sq. ft. building.

It is one of two office towers underway in Charlotte — the other, 300 South Tryon, developed by Spectrum Properties and Cornerstone Real Estate Advisors, will be anchored by Babson Capital Partners and bring a little more than 630,000 sq. ft. of new office space to uptown. That tower is expected to open in the second quarter of 2017.

The remaining space, including the top floors, are up for grabs, say leaders at Atlanta-based Portman Holdings, the project’s developer, and Trinity Partners, which is leasing the building with Portman. Portman developed the adjacent Westin hotel in 2003; the 18-story office building under construction is on top of the hotel’s parking deck.

Holder Construction project manager Bob Bachtler said crews had to drill more than 9,000 holes in existing columns and slabs, as well as add 288 micropiles, to reinforce existing infrastructure to support the tower. It took four months of around-the-clock work to make the site ready to build, told the Charlotte Business Journal.

“Building garages is extremely expensive and the rent that you typically get off of the garage doesn’t offset the returns,” he said. “Having the garage already here is one of the reasons we were able to go spec and afford it. It would have been a very tough thing to do otherwise.

“If we had to build this garage in today’s environment, it would have cost $35,000 a space,” he said.

“When we initially developed, there was always a thought for phase one and phase two,” said Travis Garland, director of leasing at Portman. “Phase two, at the time, was never fully developed. And then, in 2006 or 2007, when the residential boom was going on, we actually had fully designed plans for a condo tower.”

Plans for that halted once the recession hit. Portman came back to planning the project in 2012 as an office tower, as that’s where market demand was in center city Charlotte. Portman broke ground on 615 South College last summer. The project is on track to deliver in March, with the tower crane coming down next month.

“One of the realities when you’re one of the new buildings (is that) everyone wants to come take a look at the shiny new car, so that’s been fun,” Ball told the Charlotte Business Journal. “But I think it’s real activity. We could certainly see more from out of market … (but) a lot of companies seem to be growing, which is a good sign.”

Part of what made the speculative project feasible was the 1,500-space parking garage already built during The Westin’s development. The office project has eliminated about 150 spaces, but still leaves a ratio of about two spaces per 1,000 sq. ft., which Garland says is a competitive number in a downtown setting.

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