By Steve Brown
Office workers returning to one of Dallas-Fort Worth’s biggest business campuses are in for a surprise after working at home during COVID-19.
In the last year, the more than 1 million-square-foot Terraces at Solana offices on State Highway 114 have gotten a total redo, adding extensive outdoor space and plush indoor amenities.Investors Glenstar Properties and Singerman Real Estate bought the largest section of the Solana project in Westlake in 2019. They spent most of 2020 revamping the buildings that were constructed in the 1980s.
That investment has paid off. They’ve kept most office tenants at the campus while attracting new businesses.“This project has outperformed everything else in our portfolio during COVID in terms of new leasing, tenant renewals and growth,” said Matt Omundson, Glenstar Properties principal. “Since COVID, we’ve done 177,000 square feet of new leasing and 205,000 square feet of renewals. We have more leasing activity here than we could have ever predicted.”
The Solana office complex has added offices for California-based Robinhood Financial, Core-Mark Holding Co. and expanded space for Goosehead Insurance.Occupancy in the campus has gone from about 45% when Glenstar bought it to 75% leased.“We’ve got two tenant prospects right now in documentation to get us to 80%, ” Omundson said.Omundson said the State Highway 114 corridor through Westlake and Southlake continues to attract financial firms. The area has major employment centers for Fidelity Investments, Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade and Deloitte.
“One of the huge benefits we have from a labor perspective is that in Plano and Frisco there are skilled workers but it is very expensive to live there,” he said. “In the 114 corridor between Las Colinas and Alliance in North Fort Worth, the cost of living is so much less than the Far North Dallas area.” To land that labor pool for its Solana project, Glenstar has upped the campus’ employee amenities and redone all of its public space.
New outdoor lounge and meeting areas, dining patios and multiple seating options have made the campus’ ample exterior spaces more people-friendly.“We have 75 acres so there is a lot of open space,” Omundson said. “We wanted to make it more usable. We created an entertainment space for the tenants with music, a fire pit and bistro lights and with lounge chair seating. “We see people conducting job interviews out here,” he said. The outdoor gathering areas and the spaces between the eight buildings are a big selling point for pandemic weary workers who want someplace with fresh air. Inside, most of the changes are in building seven – an amenity center that includes a large foodservice operation, tenant lounge areas and a conference center. A huge new fitness center includes an outside terrace that can be used for everything from yoga classes to entertainment events. Omundson said the new campus features are designed to attract a young workforce.
“At Goosehead Insurance, the average age is 26,” he said. “Our average age of employee at the campus is under 30. When we were designing it, we wanted to accommodate those workers and help [companies] recruit employees.” Glenstar officials said they were careful not to have too heavy a hand with their Solana makeover. Designed by award-winning Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta, the Solana offices were originally built to house thousands of IBM workers. “We were very sensitive to what was here,” Omundson said. “We didn’t want to blow up all this stuff that Legorreta and the original builders did.” Dallas architect BOKA Powell and Des Moines-based landscape designer Confluence oversaw the campus redo. The Terraces at Solana is Glenstar’s second major North Texas office campus redevelopment. The Chicago-based commercial property company recently completed a $50 million overhaul of Dallas’ Energy Square office complex on North Central Expressway near Lovers Lane.
“Every time we do one of these, we learn from it and make the next one better than the last,” Omundson said.