FURMAN NEWS

United Community Bank HQ design aims to blend with Falls Park earn WELL certification_12.1

https://www.postandcourier.com/greenville/business/united-community-bank-hq-design-aims-to-blend-with-fallspark-earn-well-certification/article_e2f6ee54-327c-11ec-a391-537ea73600b4.html

GREENVILLE - The new The new headquarters for United Community Bank initially raised questions about how its location would visually and environmentally impact the Reedy River and Falls Park below.


Once bisected by a highway and neglected, the centerpiece of downtown Greenville has long-since been transformed into a landmark of the Upstate, capturing the attention of travelers and locals alike.

So when construction pops up along the Reedy’s banks, heads turn and curiosity is piqued.

The developer of the planned seven-story structure along East Camperdown Way joked he couldn’t survey 10,000 people for thoughts as he prepares to build just downstream from the soon-to-be-completed Grand Bohemian Hotel. Instead, nine representatives of five Upstate conservation groups provided feedback on the design, which directly influenced the building that will break ground in early 2022. 


Beyond simply addressing environmental concerns, company leadership designed its new headquarters to be a place employees wanted to return to after almost two years of hybrid work due to the pandemic.


The backdrop of the park from the banks above the river is part of why they believe that effort will be successful.


Factoring for the falls

Trees Upstate primarily focuses on tree-planting events. But behind the scenes, the
group provides technical support and design review for large development projects like Unity Park and the United Community Bank headquarters.


Executive Director Joelle Teachey recommended the developer involve an arborist from the beginning of the project. The same day, the bank’s development partner Furman Co. reached out to her for recommendations.


“That’s the sort of thing that we like to see,” Teachey said.

 

An inspection of the trees should happen afterward, Teachey added. If the installation is not up to standard, the landscaper should fix it. 

 

Teachey gathered with members from Carolina Foothills Garden Club, the Friends of the Reedy River, Naturaland Trust and Upstate Forever to talk with Furman Co.
president Steve Navarro and landscape architects.


They discussed the river, the Greenville skyline, trees, landscaping, birds and stormwater management.


The steep slope below Falls Street Extension, which runs through the property, is virtually unbuildable. The Wyche law firm sold a small portion of its land to The Grand Bohemian Hotel before United Community Bank bought the building at 200 E. Camperdown Way. The firm and hotel negotiated a deal to put a conservation easement on the slope area. The easement is now under the control of the bank.


Wyche attorney Cary Hall, who is also a member of the Naturaland Trust board, advocated for a memorial on the easement dedicated to one of the firm’s cofounders, environmental champion Tommy Wyche. Navarro hopes a small trail with a lookout and sit-down area on the lower falls will be created.

Drone videos showed how tall the building would be in the skyline. Topographical and sightline studies provided insight into what it would look like from multiple vantage points around the city.


“We were satisfied that the site location and proposed building … would have minimal impact on patrons’ experience in Falls Park below,” a representative for Upstate Forever wrote in an email.


The feedback led to a 117,000-square-foot building designed with special reflective thermal glass to blend into the sky. The seven stories include a retail bank attached to three floors of parking and four floors of office space.


A screen will block the parking garage from view. On the side of the falls between
Church Street and Falls Street Extension, plants will obscure the screen.

The developer also talked with the city of Greenville officials to determine how they
felt about the site concerning its long-term plan for the urban edge. The city hopes
to develop the area east of the falls for business and tech-related offices.


Bank leadership and the developer also discussed the bank’s needs: how many people they were hiring, plans for growth over time, types of departments and how departments interact, among other topics.

WELL certification
The headquarters was designed during the pandemic when almost no one was working from an office, challenging Navarro and his team to anticipate ways to make people feel safe at work during the pandemic and beyond.


United Community Bank CEO Lynn Harton wanted to attract employees back to the office.
“We’re a very connected company,” Harton told The Post and Courier earlier this year in a wide-ranging interview. “I’m not a believer in remote work. I think it’s hard to build a culture.”


“We believe in flexibility,” he said. “If something comes up and you need to be home, that’s fine. But, we’re not one that believes we’re going to get rid of all our real estate and just hire people working in their basements.”


Navarro suggested WELL certification, which determines the health of a building based on ten concepts — air, water, nourishment, light, movement, thermal, comfort, sound, mind and community. Bronze, silver, gold or platinum certification can be awarded to a building after a third party verifies its scorecard.
To get the bank at least silver certification, the architects and a consultant planned everything from the materials, types of food offered and cleaning products used.


“This project is an investment in the culture of our company,” Harton said in a statement. “We want to create a place where great people will want to come to work.” 

 

The design includes an open staircase to gain points in the “movement” category, said Kennedy Tran, an architect with McMillan Pazdan Smith.


The temperature and the number of sounds are often two complaints in offices, said Carlie Bullock-Jones,
founder and principal of Ecoworks Studio and the WELL consultant on the project.


The headquarters’ position next to the falls is a potential positive sound. “The waterfall would be a great background noise,” Bullock-Jones said. “I think it’s a great spot.”


The demolition of the former Wyche Law Firm building at 200 East Camperdown Way will allow $19.6 billion-asset United Community Bank make its official mark as the largest bank headquartered in the state.


The facilities and human resources teams will maintain certification once the building is complete.


“It really is driven by the organization,” Tran said. “They have to carry this through every year in the benefits that they offer, the programming, the education of their employees, etc. When you’re in a WELL building, you’ll know you’re in a WELL building.”


Construction will begin in January 2022.

Stephanie Mirah
Reporter-Greenville
Stephanie Mirah is a reporter for The Post and Courier Greenville.