New renderings released by Sydness Architects show the street-level changes planned for the Bank of America Center, which sits across the street from Jones Plaza on one side and Philip Johnson’s other notable downtown office tower, Pennzoil Place, on the other. Last fall, building owner M-M Properties announced plans to remove the mummified 2-story Western Union building that had been encapsulated within the Bank of America Center’s northeast quadrant since 1983 (see photo above).
Windows and doors are shown added to the skyscraper along Capitol and Louisiana streets — in 2 of the walls that once entombed the telegram building. The rendering at top shows the reconfigured view from outside Jones Hall, with new 2-story openings facing Capitol St.
Only one new street-level entrance is clearly shown in that rendering, however: the awninged door to a new restaurant along Louisiana St. That restaurant is planned for a portion of the former Western Union building’s ground floor in the northeast corner of the Bank of America Center:
The glass door on the left in the view above is the restaurant’s main entrance on Louisiana St.
The existing corridor shown in the photos below passes by the banking hall (for which separate renovations are planned) on the way to the skyscraper’s lobby:
The Napoleon red granite facade on the north side of that entrance corridor, which walls off the Western Union building, is to be cracked open so that a new cafe can be inserted into the space along the hallway:
An additional level will be inserted above the restaurant and cafe, but below the mezzanine office level that currently sits atop the encased Western Union building.
Work digesting the Western Union space is scheduled to begin early this year, ahead of Bank of America’s planned departure from its namesake structure in 2019. A second — and perhaps more dramatic — phase of renovation, which will add office space over the banking hall portion of the lobby, is planned after the bank moves out.
- Previously on Swamplot: Cubicles, Mezzanines, Great Glass Elevator To Fill Philip Johnson’s Grand Downtown Banking Hall Airspace As Part of Renovation; For Its Next Trick, Bank of America Center Will Completely Digest the Secret Building It Swallowed 35 Years Ago
Renderings: Sydness Architects. Photos: Bank of America Center (corridor); Hines (lobby); Mary Ann Sullivan (exterior)
So, instead of essentially a blank, windowless granite wall at street level, we’ll get an “active permeable barrier” to the pedestrian environment, which happens to be right next to a light rail stop, as well as some interior space that may actually be useful to the people that work inside. PJ fanboys be damned: this is undeniably an improvement.
The blank walls were the best way to put the lipstick on what was then an immovable pig. That wasn’t just some random Western Union office – it was the switching station for the region, and the cost to move it would have been huge. Telegrams and telexes just aren’t as big a thing now, nearly 40 years later.