An office building in Pasadena now has what it previously — and famously — lacked. Windows.
The former Bank of America building at 101 S. Marengo Avenue had no windows for decades, but as renovations for the site start to come to an end, the building now offers windows on every side.
Renovations for the nearly 300,000-square-foot travertine-clad, cube-shaped building began in April 2021 and are expected to be completed by the third quarter of this year.
Naseema Asif, the lead designer of the site during the building’s design phase, and studio director for architecture at RIOS, said the original design had a Zen feeling to it and was compelling to look at.
But for the redesign they wanted to celebrate the building’s form while adding light and air to the structure – something that became really important post-COVID to create a sense of wellness, she added.
“That’s ultimately the goal,” Asif said. “(To) still celebrate that box – the travertine box – but make it a breathing travertine block.”
The building was first built in 1974 and designed by Edward Durell Stone Inc., the namesake firm of modern architect Stone whose earlier work included the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India, the U.S. Pavilion for the 1958 Brussels Universal and International Exposition and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
The place served as Bank of America’s credit card processing center for its BankAmericard – the first multipurpose credit card that allowed holders to carry a balance, and the predecessor to Visa. The processing center vacated the building in 2019.
Before the current vision for the building was reached, the Pasadena’s Design Commission worked with a different owner for the building and with a different design team – assessing the building twice in 2019, according to a staff report. However, in 2019, Atlas Capital Group bought the building for $72 million from Woodridge Capital Partners.
Asif said they had three meetings with the Design Commission before they came up with the final design.
She added there was some difficulty retaining the original travertine panels for the exterior renovations as they were installed in a way that is no longer up to existing code standards.
Instead of importing new travertine from Italy, they went with glass fiber reinforced concrete panels to reflect the travertine and placed the panels in the same pattern the original stone panels were placed to create the same movement and joint lines, Asif said.
To also help give the impression of the original travertine box structure, Asif said they hung big picture frame windows to help display how they sit on the box structure behind them, and cut in a slot window to give the impression that there is a depth of material being sliced into.
Besides retaining the travertine box model of the building and some other original aspects such as the escalators, there are new features.
The middle of the building has been cut out to allow for a courtyard space that can be accessed on the first level and seen from above from the upper levels, Asif said.
The building also contains new features like a gym, elevators and a skylight, said Patrick Church, managing director at Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. who is brokering the site alongside Anneke Greco, JLL’s senior vice president, for Atlas Capital Group.
Jennifer Paige, acting director of the Pasadena Planning & Community Development department, said after the building goes through inspections, the city’s Design Commission staff will make sure it matches what the commission wanted, and issue a certificate of occupancy so tenants can move in.
Church said possible tenants have been looking into renting out some of the space, but he could not provide specifics on who they may be or what the rent would be.
“It is arguably the best building in Pasadena and arguably the best in the tri-city area,” he said.
Pasadena resident Claire Park said the building does not have as much of a charm as the other historic buildings in Pasadena, as the redesign makes the building more modern.
However, she said adding windows is a good idea to make use of the California sunshine.
Park moved from New York and said she enjoys the constant sunshine California has to offer.
Jeff Mattesich, a Pasadena resident for 22 years, said he thinks the new windows on the building are the best part.
“(I) watched it get built,” he said. “It’s like a piece of art.”