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$37M Downtown Office Building Rises on Bank Site

A $37 million office project designed to mix the excitement of an urban environment with a touch of the suburbs is rising on the site of what was once a Bank of America branch office in the heart of downtown San Diego.

LeBeau Realty & Associates in partnership with Union Bank of Switzerland is building a six-story office building that will share the site at 401 B St. with an existing 20-story office tower that was formerly known as the Bank of America building. Completion is set for March 2021.

“Part of our goal is to activate B Street and help reimagine one of the main arteries in and out of downtown,” said Greg Bowman, vice president and director of leasing for LeBeau Realty & Associates.

A two-story building that had been a bank branch office has been demolished to make way for the new 90,000 square foot office building.

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Combined with the tower and rebranded as 20×6, the project will have a total of 335,000 square-feet of office space.

The 20×6 name comes from the size of the companion buildings which are being combined into a single entity –the 20-story tower and adjacent six-story new building.

An Outdoor Feel

With either Juliette balconies or full balconies on every floor and floor-to-ceiling windows, the design of the new building is very much outdoor oriented, said Darrel Fullbright principal and design director of Gensler San Diego, the architect on the project.

“The architecture is going to feel a little bit more residential than it does commercial,” Fullbright said. “Rather than being a monolithic glass box, it has this texture to it which brings the scale down.”

At the heart of the project will be a 2,000 square-foot courtyard along 4th Avenue and B Street connecting the new building and the tower with outdoor fireplaces and seating areas.

“It’s going to be this really cool outdoor amenity space,” Fullbright said. “It’s going to have that real sense of community between the old building and the new building where people come together.”

Paul LeBeau, principal of LeBeau Realty & Associates, said the design “is basically creating an urban park between the two buildings.”

The old lobby of the former Bank of America tower is being converted into a private conference area with access to an outdoor meeting space overlooking the courtyard.

A new glassed-in lobby is being created off the courtyard by cutting out what had been a retaining wall on the north side of the tower building.

“We’re creating a new glass line on the lower two floors,” Fullbright said.

The first floor of the new building will include 12,000 square feet of retail space, a 1,200 square-foot leasing office and three elevators, said Kirt Gilliland, owner of Gilliland Construction Management, which is overseeing the project.

Floor plates for the office space in the new building will be 15,000 square feet, Gilliland said.

Construction started in November 2019 and is scheduled for completion in March 2021.

COVID-19

So far, the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t had any serious adverse effects on the project, LeBeau said, and he’s hoping that by the time the project is done that the pandemic will have eased and the virus will be under control.

“Hopefully, things will be better,” LeBeau said.

What did complicate construction was putting a new building on top of an existing parking garage.

“You can’t just drop the building on top of a three-story parking building,” Gilliland said. “We had to significantly upgrade the components of the parking garage to support the new building.”

LeBeau hopes to attract tenants that might not ordinarily consider a downtown location.

“We’d love to get some tech companies,” LeBeau said.

Many of the people working in the tech industry live downtown and commute to Torrey Pines and UTC and would be a ready pool of talent for a tech company that opened offices downtown, LeBeau said.

In addition to the new building, LeBeau said the top three floors of the tower are available to lease but the overall tower building is about 80 % leased.

About $17 million was previously spent renovating the tower.

Attracting tenants shouldn’t be a problem Gilliland said.

Aside from the 60,000 square-foot Block D built in 2018 by Lankford & Associates in East Village, “There just aren’t any new office buildings downtown,” Gilliland said.

Former Bank Building

Tracing the property’s history, LeBeau said the tower and smaller building that was a Bank of America branch were built in 1982 for Bank of America, who leased it for 30 years.

The property was owned by a tax syndication led by Shearson, which was later acquired by Lehman Brothers.

“We purchased the property in 2011 from Lehman in partnership with Westbrook (Partners), a private equity firm,” LeBeau said, adding that Westbrook sold its interest in.

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