Charlotte's greenest hotel set to open this October amidst TARP controversy | CLT Blog
Bank of America construction

Charlotte’s greenest hotel set to open this October amidst TARP controversy

Posted on 10 Jun 2009 by James Willamor

1 Bank of America and Ritz-Carlton

rendering: Bank of America; view this rendering on their website

USA Today recently published an article titled “Bank of America getting into the luxury hotel business” which questioned the bank’s decision to build the new Ritz-Carlton Hotel in uptown Charlotte.

Five months from now, the nation’s largest bank is scheduled to open a new, eco-friendly Ritz Carlton in a sleek 18-story building. It will have bi-level, penthouse “wellness center” — in other words, a spa — and enough meeting space to accommodate 480 dinner guests, the hotel press release says.

The USA Today article quoted consultant Paul Herbert, saying “I would think there would be a lot of questions about that connection (between Bank of America and Ritz-Carlton), unless they’re planning on giving TARP money back real quick.” He goes on to say, “It’s again about the whole idea of excess and not spending money wisely. Somebody in those mahogany coated rooms should have said, ‘Come on guys.’” TARP, which stands for Troubled Asset Relief Program, is the largest part of the government’s $700 billion bank bailout.

In response, Bank of America spokesman Scott Silvestri stated in the article that the hotel was planned four years ago, and while the bank is looking to quickly pay back its $45 billion in TARP loans, none of those funds were used to finance the hotel.

To say Bank of America is getting into the luxury hotel business would not be as accurate as saying the bank is financing a luxury, eco-friendly hotel as part of a larger real estate investment in the city.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is only one part of a large Bank of America development in uptown. Rising next to the hotel is 1 Bank of America, a 30-story office tower. The two towers will be connected by an urban garden — a multi-level, glass roofed atrium which includes overstreet connectors to Founders Hall. The College Street side of Founders Hall is also in the process of getting a new glass facade as part of Bank of America’s plans to upgrade the retail spaces located there. In addition to the urban garden between the two towers, 1 Bank of America will have multi-level gardens rising up one corner of the building.

Both towers are employing sustainable construction practices and plant-covered green roofs, and the office building will feature bicycle racks with lockers and showers for commuters. The entire development will utilize rainwater and groundwater collection and low flow fixtures designed to conserve water and reduce stormwater runoff.  According to Bank of America’s website, these measures will result in “enough energy savings in just one year to power 260 homes, and save 3.3 million gallons of water.” Both buildings are seeking LEED Gold Certification. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is an eco-friendly building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The 1 Bank of America tower, scheduled for completion in the second quarter of 2010, is already 65 percent leased. It will include over 16,000 square feet of retail space. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, scheduled to open in October of this year, will feature 147 rooms. It will also be home to Bistro Laurent Tourondel Steakhouse facing College Street.

According to the Charlotte Business Journal, the Uptown hotel occupancy rate was 57.5 percent in 2004. The citywide hotel occupancy rate had risen to 65.8 percent by 2007, but had fallen to 55.1 percent in April of 2009. Earlier this year Aloft hotel, Starwood’s latest boutique brand, opened in Epicenter. Two other planned hotel projects in uptown have yet to begin construction – the 16-story Sierra hotel adjacent to Time Warner Cable Arena, and Novare’s Twelve hotel adjacent to their recently completed Catalyst residential tower.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel will be the first five star brand in Uptown, and will not only be the greenest hotel in Charlotte, but will also the greenest Ritz-Carlton ever built.

Photos showing construction progress after the page break:

Construction, July 2006

photo: James Willamor; view this photo on Flickr

Site preparation had just began in July of 2006. The furthermost lot is the location of Epicenter. On this side of Trade street is Ritz-Carlton, and in the foreground is the location of 1 Bank of America. The elevated walkway was removed shortly after this was taken.

Ritz-Carlton construction

photo: James Willamor; view this photo on Flickr

By May of 2008 foundation work was under way for 1 Bank of America, and the Ritz-Carlton hotel was over half way up.

Ritz-Carlton construction

photo: James Willamor; view this photo on Flickr

Glass had started going up on the Trade Street side of the Ritz-Carlton by August of 2008, and the tower was topped out.

Bank of America construction

photo: James Willamor; view this photo on Flickr

Most of the exterior of the Ritz-Carlton was covered in glass by October of 2008, and you can see the steel beams in place for the urban garden that will connect the hotel with 1 Bank of America.

Bank of America construction

photo: James Willamor; view this photo on Flickr

By January of 2009 1 Bank of America was a couple of floors above ground, and the overstreet walkways connecting the urban garden between the two new towers and Founders Hall (left) was being put into place. The facade of Founders Hall had been removed as part of its renovations, and is being reclad in glass to match the new buildings.

Bank of America construction

photo: James Willamor; view this photo on Flickr

The exterior of the Ritz-Carlton was virtually finished by the end of May of 2009, and the concrete core of 1 Bank of America was almost halfway to its height of 30 floors.

View these and additional construction photos in chronological order in the following slideshow:

photos: James Willamor; view these photos on Flickr

Comments

  1. Rhonda 11 Jun 2009 at 10:52 AM

    I’m interested to know where you got your information on uptown Charlotte hotel occupancy rates. I was under the impression that we needed more rooms uptown, otherwise why are new hotels being built? I did a search but I could only find information about the Charlotte area, not uptown specifically.

  2. Anonymous 11 Jun 2009 at 3:02 PM

    I am curious too. Charlotte generally has above average hotel occupancy rates compared to other cities in our tier. And you are correct Rhonda. Charlotte uptown does need more hotel rooms, specifically full-service hotel rooms, like the Ritz-Carlton. Even in this tough economic time, it is important that we get more large-scale conventions for future bookings to keep tourism money flowing to the queen city. The only way we can do this is to have enough hotel rooms so meeting planners can make appropriate room blocks. More hotels = larger conventions and meetings = more money, more jobs, more economic stability.

    This blog just propaganda aiemd at the banks, but only hurts our city.

  3. Herald 11 Jun 2009 at 3:21 PM

    We are seeing a lot of interest in the geothermal heating and air conditioning units lately, but what we really need is for large office buildings,schools, and hotels to start transferring over. That’s where the big results will come from!

  4. Avatar of James Willamor
    James Willamor 11 Jun 2009 at 3:39 PM

    Rhonda, you are correct in that I didn’t mean to say the Uptown occupancy rate. I was referring to a quote from the Charlotte Biz Journal that said, “In addition, industry experts note, Charlotte’s hotel occupancy rates have been less than inspiring, even as the market improves.” The article was about uptown hotels, but that specific quote referred to citywide occupancy rates. I revised the article to simply show and link to the actual occupancy numbers for the city. Thank you for pointing this out.

    Anonymous, my intent was to show both sides of the controversy from the USA Today article, including Bank of America’s rebuttal. I also take aim at the title of the USA Today article when I state, “To say Bank of America is getting into the luxury hotel business would not be as accurate as saying the bank is financing a luxury, eco-friendly hotel as part of a larger real estate investment in the city.” I support this project and I think it is good for the city to have a five star hotel brand uptown, and a very eco-friendly building at that.

    Charlotte’s growth rate demanded more hotel space when the Ritz-Carlton was planned four years ago. Now the economic downtown is holding up construction of additional hotels. Initially, the Sierra hotel was to have already started construction, but at this point appears to be on hold. It also seems plans for the Harris development in Southend, which was to include a hotel, are on hold. Novare’s inability to sell enough condos in its Catalyst tower lead to the conversion of half the building to rental units. This means their planned Twelve hotel and condo tower will likely be on hold for the foreseeable future. Occupancy rates fell over 19 percent in the past year, so unfortunately I do not think we will see any new hotel projects started in Uptown until the economy rebounds.

  5. Steve Sherron 12 Jun 2009 at 9:19 AM

    I had no idea that BofA was into the hotel business. It shouldn’t surprise me though since Big Gov is now intruding into every facet of our lives under the Messiah.

    BTW, those are great photos.

  6. George 19 Jun 2009 at 3:52 PM

    I think it is fantastic how we are using renewable energy and going green in so many ways. I think we also need to do things like reducing our energy usage, like installing geothermal heat pumps to replace high energy heating and cooling systems.