Just nine months after moving into its 28-story headquarters in downtown Winston-Salem, N.C., Wachovia Corp. is considering more construction.
The $47.5 billion-asset banking company said it already needs more space for operations it hadn't anticipated when it broke ground in 1994 for its $80 million, 600,000-square-foot headquarters.
Now, the bank may spend up to $26 million to build 10 floors of "plain- vanilla" offices nearby - including space for 250 to 300 new employees. Wachovia has applied to the city government to buy a six-month option on a 1.7-acre site for about $600,000.
David C. Swann, senior vice president in charge of the company's space planning, said the jobs would result from the company's "normal growth." J. Allen Joines, assistant city manager in Winston-Salem, said the company had told city officials it expects to do the hiring by the end of 1997.
"They are on the threshold of busting out of their seams," said Anthony R. Davis, an analyst at Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. "And they are adding a fair number of people. This could be a quite reasonable expansion."
Wachovia now leases space in several buildings in downtown Winston- Salem, including three floors of the RJR Plaza building and eight floors in its own former headquarters.
Mr. Swann said he is juggling leases and real estate holdings so that Wachovia can add 600,000 square feet within five years. "If we build another building, we could sell it if we needed to," he said.
The company's fluid construction plans reflect a quandary facing many banks: Rapid expansion into new business lines swells employee ranks, but as the industry consolidates, these jobs' long-term viability is uncertain.
"By the year 2000," Mr. Swann said, "the experts say there will be 12 major banks nationwide. We're the 20th-largest right now. Either we're going to be a survivor by buying a couple more banks, or else the other will happen. I bet that if BankAmerica offered our shareholders $100 a share, they'd all go running to their safe-deposit boxes to get out their stock."
Wachovia's need for space in Winston-Salem would most likely increase if it made acquisitions of its own. Much of the headquarters growth has resulted from the bank's consolidating 40% to 60% of its back-office operations from its South Carolina and Georgia banks, Mr. Swann said.
The bank has yet another option to buy a sliver of land between its new headquarters and parking deck, where it could add 150,000 square feet of offices.