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New Uptown office tower breaks ground

Local elected officials and Gov. Pat McCrory, fourth from left, join officials from development partners and anchor tenant Babson Capital in breaking ground on 300 South Tryon, the first high-rise to start construction since the recession. Photo by Eric Dinkins

(From left) U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners Chairman Trevor Fuller, Babson Capital CEO Tom Finke, Gov. Pat McCrory, U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger, Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter, Charlotte City Councilman Al Austin, Charlotte Center City Partners CEO Michael Smith and Spectrum Properties President John Boylan break ground on 300 South Tryon. The 25-story office tower is the first to start construction since the recession. Photo by Eric Dinkins

Representatives of Babson Capital Management and of development partners Cornerstone Real Estate Advisors and Spectrum Properties were joined Monday morning by local officials and Gov. Pat McCrory to break ground the city’s first office tower to be constructed since the Great Recession.

Construction on the 25-story, class-A office building, 300 South Tryon, is expected to begin in January and be finished in March 2017. Balfour Beatty Construction is the general contractor.

Babson, a global investment management company with more than $200 billion in assets worldwide, will be the building’s anchor tenant and will occupy about 200,000 of the 630,000 total square feet of space.

Babson already has 170 of its 1,000 employees in Charlotte, and 300 South Tryon will serve as the company’s corporate headquarters.

“There have been a couple of times in history where we looked at developing this site, and the time just wasn’t right,” Babson CEO Tom Finke said. “But today, the time is right, and the time is now.”

McCrory, Charlotte’s former mayor, and the city’s current Mayor Dan Clodfelter both said the site had been a historical symbol of success in Uptown Charlotte.

Charlotte native Jack Wood, who McCrory said was one of the people responsible for coining center city as “uptown” as opposed to “downtown,” operated a clothing store at the site more than 40 years ago.

Clodfelter said John Tate Jr., former president of Piedmont Bank – now Fifth Third Bank – later put a bank branch on the site, which was the last development to exist there.

“It’s been a long, long wait for this corner to come back,” he said.

Speakers described 300 South Tryon as “the last puzzle piece,” and “a missing tooth” for Charlotte’s Uptown, and said they were looking forward to the building joining the city’s skyline.

“This is big stuff, and it’s wonderful for all of us to be here to celebrate this, not just because of the echoes of the past, but a promise to the future,” said Trevor Fuller, chairman of the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners.

Maxwell Hanks, managing director of brokerage services at Spectrum Properties and lead leasing agent for the building, said Spectrum was negotiating with other companies about leasing space in the building, but he declined to name them.

The building will also have about 35,000 square feet of retail space on the first two floors, but Hanks said there would like be a terraced restaurant, a tavern and a coffee shop, and Hanks said it was too early to know who will occupy that space.

Rental rates for the building will be $35.50 per square foot for the bottom 12 floors, and $36.50 per square foot for the top 13 floors, according to Hanks.

The average rental rate for Class A office space in Uptown was $28.57 in third quarter this year, according to the Karnes Research Co.

The first phase of construction will be a parking garage that will reach 40 feet below the base of the building and have more than 400 parking spaces. Hanks said the parking garage would take about five months to complete, and that ground-level construction on the building will begin about a year from now.

The parking garage under 300 South Tryon, combined with an existing adjacent parking deck on West Third Street owned by Babson parent company MassMutual, will offer about one parking space per 1,000 square feet of the new building’s office space.

Gov. McCrory said 300 South Tryon affirmed that Charlotte was on the rise.

“The Carolina comeback continues, and Charlotte is helping lead the way,” he said.

“I think (300 South Tryon) shows the financial sector is coming back, and it’s coming back right here in center city.”

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