Developers have broken ground for a 27-story office tower designed to accommodate up to 1,500 new employees of First Union Corp. in its hometown of Charlotte, N.C.

The sizable expansion is largely prompted by the company's aggressive growth plans for its capital markets and capital management areas, but the new building will house employees from many areas of the company, said Joseph A. Tronco, senior vice president of First Union's corporate real estate division.

The $143 billion-asset First Union, the sixth-largest banking company in the country, has stated that it wants to push fee income to 40% of total revenues by 2000. It is counting on investment banking as well as trust, brokerage, mutual funds, and other financial planning services and products to get it there.

In the most recent quarter, fee income amounted to 35.6% of total revenues.

The company has not determined exactly how many jobs it will add in the next couple of years, said Sandy Deem, a First Union spokeswoman. But its rapid growth in recent years fueled a need for new office space.

In the second quarter, revenue from the capital markets group was $211 million, up 148% from the year before. Capital management revenue was $209 million, up 51%. Employment in those areas combined now tops 6,100.

The 800,000-square-foot building is dubbed Three First Union Center. When it is completed, in 1999, First Union will occupy 400,000 square feet, and the rest will be leased to retail and restaurant tenants. The company also has an option to take over an additional 100,000 square feet, said Mr. Tronco.

The new space will give First Union more than two million square feet of office space, overall, in Charlotte's uptown business district.

First Union Corp. owned the land, the site of the former Federal Reserve Bank of Charlotte, but sold it to developer Childress Klein Properties, which will oversee construction of the tower.

The building will be the third-largest in Charlotte's uptown area, after NationsBank Corp.'s Corporate Centre, which totals 1.1 million square feet, and the 995,000-square-foot One First Union Center.

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