RALEIGH — Within weeks, a New York developer plans to start an $8 million renovation of the 10-story former Wachovia building downtown, aiming to create an entrepreneurial hub similar to American Tobacco Campus in Durham.
LRC Opportunity Fund put the long-vacant bank headquarters under contract in November. The building had been on the market since a 50-year lease between Wachovia and the owners of the land expired in January 2011.
Howard Lavitt said his firm will start gutting the old financial offices later this month. He’s recruiting entrepreneurial businesses, ranging from software to financial companies, to fill the 110,000 square feet of space. He expects the Fayetteville Street location to be a major selling point, and one that they’ll play up by rebranding the building 227 Fayetteville.
LRC will create a more open floor plan that maximizes the building’s windows and offers a modern office dynamic. John Warasila of Alliance Architecture, who designed much of the American Tobacco Campus, is drawing up the plans. High-speed elevators will connect businesses that take up multiple floors. And an underground tunnel already offers a walkway to the Moore Square parking deck, where tenants will lease spaces.
They’ll leave the ground floor atrium that once housed a spacious bank branch. The floor will house a mix of retail, office space and possibly a restaurant.
“This building is timeless and it can work, whether it’s 1964 or 2024,” Lavitt said, adding that its high-quality materials wouldn’t be affordable in today’s construction market.
Outside the building, Lavitt wants to revamp the entrance on Fayetteville Street and partner with the city to design the plazas on each side. On the north side facing the Exchange Plaza building, he envisions a small performing arts stage that could host events. The south side facing First Citizens Bank could have a marketplace with street vendors, he said.
LRC thinks the timing is right for the renovation, because the downtown office vacancy rate is around 6 percent and tech firms Red Hat and Citrix are moving in.
“There’s a dearth of space in downtown,” Lavitt said. “Raleigh has exhausted its Class A space.”
227 Fayetteville will welcome its first tenants in early 2014.