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Frost Bank Tower: First high-rise built by Fort Worth-based firm in more than 40 years

June 2,2018

Fort Worth Business Press article by Robert Francis

Frost Bank Tower

649 Taylor St.

Fort Worth 76102

The first high-rise designed and built by a Fort Worth-based firm in more than 40 years. Growald Architects designed the Tandy Center in the mid 1970's.

Investment: $115 million

Developer: Anthracite Realty Partners, the real estate arm of Jetta Operating, an oil and gas exploration company owned by Greg and Laura Bird

Height: 25 stories

Office: 230,000 square feet of Class A office space

Retail: 7,000 square feet of ground-floor retail

Parking: 900-space garage

Architect: Bennett Benner Partners

Construction: Balfour Beatty Construction

Leasing Agent: Stream Realty

The recently opened Frost Bank Tower in downtown Fort Worth takes its place as the seventh tallest building in the city.

Frost Bank, the anchor tenant, has more than 73,000 square feet of office space in the building and a very noticeable logo on the west side, similar to those the San Antonio-based bank has in other major Texas cities. Building developer Anthracite and Jetta Operating are located in the top three floors of the building, moving from their offices in the Fort Worth Club building. On the 12th floor Sky Lobby, Perch has opened, offering contemporary Southern cuisine with Texas influences.

The Fort Worth Business Press spoke with architect Michael Bennett, CEO of Bennett Benner Partners, about the new building.

Tell us a little bit about the building.

The way the building lays out, it's like a vertical campus in a way in that you leave the parking and you come into the lobby and you find a restaurant there in the lobby. And then you go up one more floor and there's an event space. And if this were laid out horizontally, those might be separate buildings or something like that.

So, it's like taking a campus in a horizontal format and stacking it all up.

What about the rooftop spaces?

These are spaces that are really carved out of the building. We tried to think about where those spaces are and how they work, because we can have a harsh climate here relative to [the weather] being too hot or too windy or this or that.

And so tried to conform those spaces in a way that they're protected from the west sun, because you know what those would be like if they were facing west with all the glass and concrete and stuff.

And so we oriented the main space there off the restaurants to face east so that it would be protected in the late evening. And then there's a piece of the building that curves around that.

The intent of that is to shield it from the southerly breeze so that on a really windy day you can still get out there ... especially at that elevation, it can get really breezy – so I intended to set it up so that you can get out there and enjoy the space without being burned up or blown away.

Very important Fort Worth considerations. How early on did you know there was going to be a bank on the bottom floors?

My recollection is that it was almost from the beginning that I think they had been in discussions with Frost, because they've [Anthracite and Jetta] had a really long relationship with Frost as a company.

Frost knew that they were at a point where they wanted to be able to consolidate a lot of their offices and outlying parts out in Fort Worth into one main office. You've probably noticed Frost has a building in every major market with their logo on the top of it.

And they did not have that in Fort Worth, and that was one of the drivers – that they wanted to be able to get their logo on a building in downtown Fort Worth. So Frost was involved pretty early on. … it was a question about how much space they would take, but we knew they would be taking a significant part of the ground floor.

What are some of the innovations in the building?

I think the elevator system is the first for Fort Worth. And the idea of that is that it's more efficient, because obviously if you had four people going to the 12th floor and one person's going to the fifth floor, you can group those people in elevators. Otherwise, they might all take separate elevators. And so, it makes [elevator use] more efficient and faster.

From a sustainability point of view, you're not wasting energy for three elevators. Maybe taking those people to the 12th floor, you can only have one elevator do that.

What about the glass you used on the building?

That was another first thing for Fort Worth, at least in that scale; it’s what's called a unitized curtain wall. And what that means is that it comes out, or it comes to the site as a single unit that's already been put together. And the glass and the aluminum have all been assembled on a site, in this case down in New Braunfels.

And so all those get assembled and delivered to the site with a number on them. And then they get assembled from the inside of the building, whereas an old fashion curtain wall would be assembled by a scaffold from the outside. So you would have some guy out there assembling the aluminum pieces, then putting the glass in and glazing and feeding the glass into the aluminum frame.

And you're doing all that while you're 20 stories up in the air. This is all done in a factory setting and delivered, and then clicks into place. And so they could glaze the floor in a couple of days. They could put in all the glass in the floor, which is way faster. And there's some – I forget the exact number – but 3,000 and something individual panes of glass in the building that were done that way.

And it's a big advantage from a construction point of view. It's easier to phase all that. The quality of it is better. It's safer for the people that do the installation. So there are lot of good things about that, but that's the first time a system has been used to that degree in Fort Worth.

I know parking must have been one of the design considerations. What did you have to do there?

That was a little bit of a challenge, because the site dimensions, it's an L shaped site. And it was 200 feet in the long dimension and 100 feet in the short dimension to the L. And that's about the absolute perfectly wrong dimensions for parking, because parking must be either 60 feet or 120 feet.

So that 100 feet made it really inefficient. And so what we did is we had the idea in the below-grade and the above-grade to go past the property line. So we have an encroachment agreement with the city where we extend 10 feet past the property line. So if you go especially on the west side of the building, you'll see where the building hangs out over the sidewalk to allow us to get one more row of parking in there.

We had 950 spaces or so. I don't remember the exact number, but it's around 950 spaces, which is important for our client's A-plus building like this to be able to park it at something close to three parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of lease space. So it's important to get that quantity of parking in there.

One of the other things … that's different from this building is the ceiling height. Because this really is a class A-plus building, so we had 10-foot ceiling heights.

What were some of the challenges once you started construction?

There are things, and we knew these were going to be challenges. But there are things like the bedrock down below started at about 15 feet or so. And the hole that we had to dig for the parking garage was almost 60 feet. It was probably only six months, [but they were] chipping out that rock one piece at a time. And I say a piece. It was like a piece the size of a softball. One piece at a time. That was a big challenge, because that was some really hard rocks that they had to chip through. And that was a challenge from the construction side, not really from our side so much.

But the other thing we had to think about is, from a design point of view, you're digging a 55-, 60-foot-deep hole next to an adjacent building that has people in it that are trying to continue working.

And so, how we made sure that that building was shored up so that it didn't shift or move or anything during the course of our construction and excavation, that was a complicated problem. And fortunately, our structural engineer and the people that built the retention systems that held all that in place did their job very well and we didn't have any issues at all with the old Star-Telegram building and Morningstar building.

Location Mentioned: Frost Tower Fort Worth