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Skanska drew inspiration from Bank of America Tower for new downtown Houston project
By Jeff Jeffrey – Reporter, Houston Business Journal
Jan 14, 2021, 2:29pm CST
The design for Skanska USA Commercial Development’s new 28-story office project adjacent to Discovery Green in downtown Houston was influenced by the company’s experience building Bank of America Tower, executives with the company told the Houston Business Journal during a Jan.14 interview.
Matt Damborsky, executive vice president for Skanska USA Commercial Development’s Houston market, said after seeing how successful Bank of America Tower’s amenity terraces were with tenants, the company made sure to include similar terraces that overlook the 12-acre Discovery Green park in its new project, dubbed 1550 on the Green. Skanska’s new 375,000-square-foot office tower will be located at 1550 Lamar St.
“We learned while we were building Bank of America Tower, as well as similar projects across the U.S. and around the world, that tenants really like to have that third place where they can work,” Damborsky said. “In this case, the entire building overlooks the park, so we wanted to make sure we were doing what we could to bring the park into the building.”
Bank of America Tower, which opened at 800 Capitol St. in May 2019, has an outdoor amenity deck on the 35-story building’s 12th floor, as well as a retail and restaurant lobby on the bottom floor, which the company named Understory.
The plans for 1550 on the Green include two tenant-only terraces and an additional terrace on the roof deck that the public will be able to rent as an event space, Damborsky said.
While the plans for 1550 on the Green are still being finalized, Skanska and its design team are also considering ways to activate the building’s lobby to make it more inviting to tenants and members of the public who might be looking for a place to grab a bite to eat.
“We’re considering various uses,” Damborsky said. “The obvious component is food and beverage. We’re open to everything from a fast-casual restaurant to fine dining. But we might be also do something like the walk-up food and beverage places we have seen be successful at other downtown buildings.”
The design team making those decisions includes the BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, an international design firm that chose to make 1550 on the Green its first project in Texas, as well as Austin-based architect Michael Hsu, who was brought on to design the interior amenity spaces. Hsu also designed Bank of America Tower's Understory culinary market.
“We are very excited to have Michael Hsu on board because he’s known for creating interesting retail and amenity spaces that become a destination,” Damborsky said.
That said, Damborsky noted that Bank of America Tower’s influence on 1550 on the Green wasn’t just limited to the layout of the building. The project will also have many of the touchless technology systems that Bank of America Tower incorporated into its design — systems that took on new importance in the wake of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“Not only do those systems provide an additional level of convenience, they are important to protecting the health and wellness of the employees working there,” Damborsky said. “We want to make entry into the office as easy as possible. As with Bank of America Tower, we want to include systems that call the building’s elevators as soon as an employee badges into the building. We also want to have systems in place, so that planned visitors can be put on a list to make their access into the office as easy as possible, as well.”
Skanska plans to announce the construction timeline for 1550 on the Green after it receives all of the required permits. Records filed with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation show that construction of the building could begin as early as June 1, with an estimated completion date of May 1, 2023. The initial phase of the project is expected to cost $117 million, according to the TDLR filing.
Once 1550 on the Green is completed, the building will include two basement levels of parking, six levels of above-ground parking, 20 floors of office space and a mechanical penthouse. There will be 7,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.
Norton Rose Fulbright, one of the largest law firms in Houston, has already signed on as the first tenant in the tower. Norton Rose Fulbright has more than 175 lawyers in its Houston office and currently is based in the Fulbright Tower, at 1301 McKinney St., part of the Houston Center complex downtown. The firm will relocate in 2024 and have naming rights in Skanska's new tower, where it will occupy 32% of the office space.
Skanska acquired the property at 1550 Lamar St. in 2019 as part of a $55 million deal to buy four downtown parking lots from MIPS Investments LLC and MIPS Parking LLC, which Skanska said would be used for a then-unnamed mixed-use development. 1550 on the Green will occupy two of those parcels.
Damborsky said Skanska still has not decided exactly what the remaining two parcels will be used for, but the company plans to call its mixed-use district Discovery West.
"Right now, we're going to focus on making 1550 on the Green a truly spectacular project," he said.
It was 390' going off of the massing chart, so it should be pretty substantial in comparison to the surrounding area. It will eventually be dwarfed by the 3 others towers in this development if I got my expectations in check, to bad this part was shrunk due to what I suspect is a horrible period for hotels.