400 Bellemeade offers at least some of its tenants skybox-quality views over the adjacent First National Bank Field, home of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, a minor-league baseball team affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The building's unique facade pairs contemporary glass curtainwall with more traditional masonry cladding to create a new signature presence in the city's skyline. While it might look like the brickwork is all hand-laid masonry units, it's actually a thin-face veneer inlaid into SlenderWall precast wall-panel assemblies. This approach allowed the general contractor to shave months off the construction schedule, while still giving the developer and design team the Class-A look they desired.
Design melds old and new
The owner in this case is Front Street Capital, a private equity real estate investment firm focused on properties in the Southeast. They were introduced to the idea of developing Class-A office space at that location by the Grasshoppers' previous owner (the team and its ballpark were purchased by Temerity Baseball in January 2022), who saw opportunity in adding value to what was then simply a gathering space for the team's fans during game days.
Front Street liked the idea, but plans shifted several times regarding how much office space the local market could absorb. Initially scoped out at 9 stories, ambitions dropped to six floors before the investors returned to the original design, with a groundbreaking in May 2019. The final plan brought together the adjacent ballpark's old-school appearance with the more modern lines of the surrounding downtown commercial district. In the design developed by the Winston-Salem firm of West & Stem Architects, the brick appears to peel away from the facade on city-facing elevations to reveal a contemporary glass-and-steel structure beneath.
"At a six-story design concept, traditional masonry cavity construction supported by curtain wall framing was strongly considered," Stem says. "The challenges and limitations of traditional masonry-veneer construction at mid-rise heights led, ultimately, to consideration of alternate envelope enclosure approaches."
Landmark Builders' director of operations, Channing Chrismon, says once the team came across SlenderWall as a possibility, all involved were intrigued. "It provided a means to get a skin on this building extremely quickly," he says. "Once we got above the six-story mark, where the numbers were falling meant conventional construction wasn't economical for us."
SlenderWall units are a complete wall assembly that combines an exterior panel with a vapor barrier, closed-cell foam insulation, and interior framing studs. They're also very lightweight, tipping the scales at only 30 lbs. per sq. ft., which is 66% lighter than traditional precast products. Plus, SlenderWall panels are shipped to the jobsite ready to install, to meet a job's specific timing requirements. Thin-brick veneers, like that used for this project, are installed during manufacturing, and designers can choose from a broad range of brick colors and textures.
As this was their first experience designing and installing SlenderWall panels, the design/build team leaned heavily on the expertise of panel fabricator Smith-Midland. Both Stem and Chrismon have high praise for the assistance they received during design and construction. "Every question we had related to the product was answered quickly and effectively during the design and detailing process, Stem says. "We were able to visit the plant to review the product being made and learn about its capabilities and limitations. We worked closely with Smith-Midland to maximize the efficiency and economy of the design."
The combination of SlenderWall's reduced weight versus standard precast products and Smith-Midland's on-time delivery process eased construction efforts. Due to the reduced weight of the panels, Landmark Builders was able to use a mobile crane, which aided navigation around the constrained urban building site and they didn't have to worry about staging panels that were awaiting installation. The building was enclosed and ready for interior finishing in just five weeks, Chrismon says, which cut three to four months off what a traditional construction schedule would have been.
The completed 400 Bellemeade opened in the summer of 2020 and quickly earned the title of best new construction project awarded in the Triad Business Journal's 2021 Commercial Real Estate Awards, according to Stem. "I think it's very safe to say as a design, development and construction team, we are extremely happy with the project's exterior appearance," he says. "Both its owner and various tenants alike have expressed their enjoyment and appreciation for the new building time and again."