Things to Do

6 Charlotte Skyscrapers That Offer More Than Meets the Eye

posted by Michael Solender June 5, 2017
Photo by Kyo H Nam Photography
Photo by Kyo H Nam Photography
 There’s no questioning Charlotte’s prominence as a New South city and one the fastest-growing urban hubs between Atlanta and New York City.

Fueled by the boom in economic development and jobs in financial services, banking, technology and retail since the late 1980s, the city’s physical landscape—especially Uptown’s majestic skyline—has been reshaped to better accommodate the area where a growing number of people live, work and play.

Dozens of Queen City skyscrapers boast world-class public art, convenient amenities (free Wi-Fi anyone?), shopping, entertainment and some of the city’s best eateries. What’s more, many of them also provide seldom-seen glimpses into Charlotte’s fascinating past.

With offerings and background stories that far exceed their business purposes, these eight Center City greats tower above the competition.

1 of 7
Photo by Kyo H Nam Photography
Photo by Kyo H Nam Photography

Duke Energy Center: 550 S. Tryon St.


  • Year Built: 2009
  • Height: 786.5 feet
  • Floors: 48

One of the newer entrants onto Charlotte’s high-rise scene, Duke Energy Center is also one of the most architecturally intriguing. A sharp, angular rise 48 floors above South Tryon Street, the building has a granite base and blue-green glass topped with a handle-like feature that bears resemblance to the Shanghai World Financial Center. The center’s sophisticated exterior nighttime light scheme fascinates Charlotteans with its colorful variations, which align with city happenings (follow @WFLightsCLT on Twitter for information on the building’s light shows).

The building was to be the headquarters for Wachovia Corp. when originally constructed, but the name shifted to the lead tenant, Duke Energy, after the former bank’s acquisition by Wells Fargo & Co. Charlotte’s 1975 city directory listed Firestone Tire and Rubber Company and Charlotte Mutual Insurance as former occupants of the space.

One of the anchor buildings at the Levine Center for the Arts, Duke Energy Center offers visitors easy access to the Knight Theater, Mint Museum Uptown, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. Diners can feast on inventive fare at Levant Mediterranean Cuisine, Asian-fusion delicacies at EMZY Sushi Bar and Asian Kitchen and modern-American dishes at Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth. Energy Café, located along the building’s colonnade, is a quick-casual stop for healthy snacks, meals and beverages. Bonus: The Duke Energy Center offers free public Wi-Fi on the 500 Block Plaza in front of the Mint Museum.

2 of 7
Photo by Kyo H Nam Photography
Photo by Kyo H Nam Photography

Carillon Tower: 227 W. Trade St.


  • Year Built: 1991
  • Height: 394 feet
  • Floors: 24

One of Charlotte’s most distinguished skyscrapers, the Carillon Tower rests on the former space of the legendary Beaux Arts-style Hotel Charlotte. From 1924 to 1988, dignitaries, like former presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, Elvis Presley and Babe Ruth, slept here. Today, the sky-high copper roof spire, which is shaped like a bell tower, makes the neo-Gothic edifice a standout. The building’s architecture and name (a carillon is a musical instrument often found in the bell tower of a church) were both inspired by the historic First Presbyterian Church located across the street.

Home to Charlotte’s Arts & Science Council, the Carillon Tower is perhaps best known for two fine works of art in its lobby. In the center of the space, Swiss artist Jean Tinguely’s 40-foot-tall kinetic masterwork Cascade is a quirky, kinetic mashup of whirling and whizzing objects that had previously been discarded and then reimagined by Tinguely. Muralist Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #683, which features geometry saturated in jewel tones, claims the building’s far lobby wall.

Feel like splurging on a dinner to remember? Morton’s, The Steakhouse, which is located here, is known for prime steaks and chops that are a cut above the rest.

3 of 7
Photo by Kyo H Nam Photography
Photo by Kyo H Nam Photography

Two Wells Fargo Center: 325 S. Tryon St.


  • Year Built: 1971
  • Height:433 feet
  • Floors: 32

Initially coated in a beige tone, Two Wells Fargo was repainted gray to compliment the renovated color scheme of nearby Wells Fargo Main. When it was built in 1971, it surpassed the Winston Tower in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, as the tallest building in the state, reaching 433 feet high. The site was once home to the Charlotte Masonic Temple.

Home to College Street Shops, Two Wells Fargo has something for everyone. Get your sweets-and-caffeine fix over a salted caramel brownie and steamy macchiato at Amélie’s French Bakery, a treat for Fido at The Dog Deli Food Company, and your shoes shined or cobbled at Sam’s Shoe Repair. Other specialty outlets include Halfpenny’s Confections, JR’s General Store, Johnny Burrito and Tower Hair Salon. The atrium boasts fancy and casual culinary mainstays, like Mimosa Grill and Just Fresh.

Head up to the second floor of the lobby and connect to Overstreet Mall, where the skybridge traverses Fourth Street and meanders through a parking garage, easily connecting pedestrians to adjacent BB&T Center. Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, Merle Norman Cosmetics and Tinder Box are among the myriad retailers in a blocks-long network of overhead shops.


4 of 7
Photo by Kyo H Nam Photography
Photo by Kyo H Nam Photography

Hearst Tower: 214 N. Tryon St.


  • Year Built: 2002
  • Height: 659 feet
  • Floors: 46

With art-deco panache extending from its lobby design all the way through its exterior facade, Hearst Tower upped the character and class of Uptown’s skyline when its doors opened in 2002. The Tower rests on space once occupied by the women’s apparel retailer Montaldo’s. The building has a unique reverse-floorplate design in which the upper floors average more than 4,000 square feet more than those at the base.

The 46-story building’s College Street entrance stands two floors lower than the building’s Tryon Street front doors. An ornate, deco-style brass railing flanks the stairway here. A work of art in itself, the staircase was designed by Parisian ironworker Edgar Brandt using railings reclaimed from famed Parisian department store Au Bon Marche.

Hearst’s lobby is home to fine dining at Sea Level NC, Luce and Malabar, which are located on the expansive plaza out front. They’re nestled alongside Port City Java coffeehouse and popular Irish hangout RíRá Irish Pub & Restaurant.

Located within Hearst Tower, The Hearst Service Center provides accounting, information technology and other business-related support to all Hearst media units (publishers of Cosmopolitan, Elle, Country Living and more).

The tower’s plaza offers wonderful people-watching and also affords visitors the chance to take in the free, yet rarely visited fine art/glass collection that lies in the lobby of the adjacent Foundation For The Carolinas building. Visitors of Hearst can also enjoy pampering services at Modern Salon & Spa, which takes residence on the second floor.

Cozy, free work space for tenants and the public can be found off of the Hearst lobby at Collaborate 214. Complimentary Wi-Fi, private workstations, charging ports and even small office lots are offered during weekday business hours.


5 of 7
Photo by Kyo H Nam Photography
Photo by Kyo H Nam Photography

Bank of America Corporate Center: 100 N. Tryon St.


  • Year Built:1992
  • Height: 871 feet
  • Floors: 60

With grandeur that’s difficult for the eye to take in all at once, Charlotte’s tallest building, Bank of America Corporate Center, has been cleverly dubbed “The Taj McColl”—a nod to former Bank of America chairman and financial mogul Hugh McColl. The space was originally announced as a 50-story building but was modified to 60 stories in honor of the city’s namesake, Queen Charlotte. The number 60 pays tribute to her highness’ 60-year reign as Queen of England.

The tower’s opening ceremonies were attended by 55,000 guests who were transfixed as members of nearby Fort Bragg’s 16th Military Police Brigade rappelled the full height of the building. The building rests on the site of earlier Charlotte department stores Belk (1929-1989) and Efird’s (1923-1989) and an iteration of Charlotte’s City Hall (1891-1925).

The marble that adorns the main lobby comes from quarries in Spain, Italy, France and Turkey. In the lobby, visitors find a selection of stunning frescoes (among the largest secular frescoes in the world) by North Carolina artist Ben Long. A small gallery in the northeast corner of the lobby sheds light on the details behind the frescoes’ construction. It includes their materials and some of the original sketches Long used to create them.

The building is a gateway to the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center’s performance powerhouses—Belk Theater, Booth Playhouse and Stage Door Theater. Directly connected to the tower’s lobby is Founders Hall, the massive atrium that houses top restaurants, like Aria Tuscan Grill and City Smoke, apparel retailers Ivy & Leo and Jos. A. Bank, and a skybridge connection to Overstreet Mall.

6 of 7
Photo by Kyo H Nam Photography
Photo by Kyo H Nam Photography

One Wells Fargo Center: 301 S. College St.


  • Year Built: 1988
  • Height: 588 feet
  • Floors: 42

Nicknamed “The Jukebox” for its rounded top, One Wells Fargo Center is the former world headquarters for Wachovia Corp. It’s one of four office towers that comprise the Uptown Wells Fargo complex. The location was once home to Jefferson First Union.

A setback came when mammoth Hurricane Hugo tore through Charlotte in 1989, just a year after the building opened. More than 100 of its windows were destroyed and demanded repair.

The center represents Charlotte’s first postmodern high-rise and was North Carolina’s tallest building from 1988 to 1992. The Carolina Raptor Center once housed a “Falcon cam” here, streaming the antics of nesting peregrine falcons who love the building’s overhangs.

Enjoy a brown-bag lunch on the sunny outdoor plaza or pick up treats and eats at Smoothie King, Charlotte Coffee Station or Fujo Uptown Bistro. Meet friends or coworkers for post-daily grind cocktails at the connected Hilton Charlotte Center City’s hotel bar or catch a great workout at the Childress Klein YMCA.

7 of 7

There’s no questioning Charlotte’s prominence as a New South city and one the fastest-growing urban hubs between Atlanta and New York City. With offerings and background stories that far exceed their business purposes, these eight Center City greats tower above the competition.

[This article was featured in the June 2017 issue of Charlotte Happenings magazine | Updates by Stephanie Lucas]

You may also like