As NationsBank Corp. pursues its nationwide banking aspirations, it is building a one million-square-foot technology center to handle its growing operations.
"We have technology centers around the country, but this will be the center for development and leading-edge things we'll be doing," said James H. Hance Jr., NationsBank vice chairman and chief financial officer.
The project includes two office buildings along with a mix of housing and retail in NationsBank's hometown of Charlotte, N.C. The company is undertaking the project, "Gateway Village," through a $350 million joint venture with Atlanta-based Cousins Property Inc. The partners broke ground Aug. 13.
NationsBank will move about 3,500 employees from various sites around Charlotte into the new facility when the first phase is completed in 2000.
Expansion on the 15-acre site bordering the downtown area is likely, officials said.
"We could easily accommodate another 3,500," said Mr. Hance.
Observers said the NationsBank project is a smart move.
"When you go through a series of acquisitions as they've gone through, it behooves them to reassess their technology needs," said R. Harold Schroeder, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. "With less reliance on the branch network and greater reliance on alternative delivery platforms like call centers, this is the next logical step for incorporating new waves of technology."
NationsBank is likely, at least initially, to occupy nearly three- quarters of the complex's office space, according to bank officials. The remainder would be leased to high-tech companies.
In addition to providing space after NationsBank's merger with San Francisco-based BankAmerica Corp., the amenity-laden project is expected to help the banking company attract high-tech talent from larger markets.
"I think it will be a big advantage in recruiting," Mr. Hance said.
NationsBank's project comes amid a bank-building boom in Charlotte.
One year ago First Union opened its own one million-square-foot, multiuse technology and call-center facility a few miles outside the city's downtown area. That project is part of a 2.1 million-square-foot "customer information center" that acts as the company's technology hub.
Despite their intense banking rivalry, Mr. Hance said NationsBank is not competing with First Union in terms of real estate development.
"Both of us are very supportive of the city and very committed to our hometown," he said. "We're each doing a very significant part in Charlotte."