What's on the horizon for uptown Charlotte???
When native Charlotteans show off their city, they point to the skyline: modern, glimmering and, in a historical sense, built almost overnight.
The Charlotte Chamber gives it a boost each year with a skyline photo contest.
And millions of TV viewers catch a glimpse when the Panthers play at Bank of America Stadium.
But what they and many newcomers don't realize is that the skyline looks like that today primarily because of Bank of America, Wachovia and their predecessor institutions. Now, those institutions are changing, with Wachovia being acquired this week and Bank of America continuing to gobble up big, international companies.
Skyline competition between the banks heated up in the 1970s as their leaders strove for bragging rights to Charlotte's tallest skyscraper.
Using the clout of the financial institutions, the bank brass were able to fill the towers by pulling in law firms and other companies that cherished their business.
One-upmanship spilled over into philanthropy, the cultural arts and historic preservation.
Bank of America, for example, revived the burned out First Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church as the McColl Center for Visual Art and put the Mint Museum of Craft + Design in the former Montaldo's department store.
First Union, before its merger with Wachovia, saved the Ratcliffe Florist building and incorporated it into a park called the Green on South Tryon.
But that was then.
Not only is office construction waning in the sluggish economy, but Wachovia is being acquired by Wells Fargo & Co. That deal is expected to close Wednesday.
Job losses are expected, and operations are being consolidated. The combined bank won't need another tower.
Wachovia's 48-story office building at Tryon and Stonewall streets and Bank of America's 32-story tower across from its corporate center might be the last bank skyscrapers for some time.
San Francisco-based Wells likely will be more interested in disposing of excess space, and its leaders certainly won't sense the hometown rivalry that fueled Charlotte's race for the sky.
At the same time, Bank of America's acquisition of Merrill Lynch puts it on a larger international playing field.
How much attention will its leaders pay to Charlotte?
Bank of America has denied it many times, but some of the city's most astute decision makers still believe the bank's headquarters eventually will end up in New York City.
Soft market for office space
Two non-bank towers, 15-story 440 South Church and 20-story NASCAR Plaza, are under construction.
They will be competing in what real estate experts believe will be a soft office market.
In most cases, the experts say, the banking giants are the magnet for office tenants.
The question now is: How strong will those banktown magnets be from here on out?
Aimee Freeman & Team Freeman
RE/MAX Executive Realty