When United Community Bank chairman and CEO Lynn Harton and his wife moved to Greenville in 2007, they both quickly fell in love with the city.
So much so that Harton decided to relocate the company’s headquarters to Greenville.
Its welcoming vibe, great amenities that make it feel small enough to get to know people, while being close to the mountains and maintaining a vibrant culture, were all catalysts for Harton to make the move.
And the company chose a prime location.
The new headquarters is under construction on Camperdown Way in downtown Greenville next to the Grand Bohemian Lodge.
“It really happened over several years,” said Harton. “When I joined the bank, I didn’t want to leave Greenville, and I was the first UCB employee in South Carolina at that time. I had this great opportunity with a company that is known for outstanding customer service and culture, we took two years to fix processes to make it scalable and started acquiring companies in higher growth markets.”
And it’s easy to attract talent to Greenville, he said, for all the same reasons he was attracted to it.
“Banks are a reflection and continue to be an amplifier of economic growth wherever they are,” said Harton. “If the community does well, the bank will do well, especially with the right leadership. We project we will grow a $120 million in net new growth in Greenville alone and all that lending activity is helping people meet their hopes and dreams. Any time you can have a strong financial institution embedded in any given market they will both do well.”
The publicly traded multibank holding company, which is worth more than $23 billion as of September, announced it would move its headquarters in February 2021 from Blairsville, Ga., to Greenville. UCB is also the largest bank headquartered in South Carolina. The legal move of the headquarters took place in July 2021. The executive team has been working out of the ONE building since 2016 while the new building is under construction. The new building will serve as the physical headquarters upon completion.
“United Community Bank’s relocation of their headquarters to downtown Greenville will house more than 300 employees, including all company executives,” said Caroline Meis, Harper General Contractors marketing director. “This project will also be the first WELL-Certified building in South Carolina, meaning the building approach is focused on health and well-being in the built environment.”
UCB employs nearly 3,000 people company-wide, 700 being in South Carolina with 193 total branches, 35 of which are in South Carolina.
Greenville-based The Furman Co., the real estate developer on the project, partnered with Harper General Contractors, McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture, BPA Engineering, and RMF Engineering.
The project, which is estimated to cost $50 million, is anticipated to be complete in spring 2024. The four-story, 118,000-square-foot headquarters will feature a branch area, three-story parking deck, a rooftop patio, 314 workstations and two outdoor terraces, according to Meis.
Harton said he is ready to have everyone in one place again, as the bank thrives on connectivity.
“We intentionally designed the building to increase interpersonal interactions,” he added.
McMillan Pazdan Smith Architecture Principal K.J. Jacobs said the whole building is designed around the concept of connectivity to not only the community but to the employees as well.
For example, everyone must enter the building through the lobby together to create initial point of contact every day. The new headquarters will also feature a welcoming wall, which will be used to announce who is having a work anniversary, special guests that day, or what’s special going on in the company. The building will feature nooks set aside for conversation areas.
There will also be an opportunity to grab a coffee and gather at the communicating staircases between levels 4, 5, and 6 with views of Falls Park. Employee spaces will be available for use spanning many different tasks from small-to-large group collaborations or if an employee needs time working alone. The designed spaces will allow for both virtual and face-to face interactions, according to Jacobs.
“The bank really focuses on the communities each location is in,” he said. “The building design is intended to maximize face-to-face interactions, and the creativity and efficiency that comes with being together. As work today is fast paced, it’s important to have a workplace everyone can convene in to allow decisions to be made quickly, especially at the leadership level.”
Since the new headquarters is a LEED-certified building, Jacobs said, it shows Harton’s commitment to sustainability and to his employees.
“He invests heavily into his people and empowers them at all different levels,” he said. “This is going the next step to invest in everyone in the building, a holistic employee-centric program that is more people-focused than just on the real estate. It’s special for a leader of a company to have strong opinions when it comes to the design of a building with his employees in mind.”
The architecture firm hopes employees and visitors feel it’s a welcoming environment when they walk through the doors, much like the city of Greenville is.
“South Carolina itself is such a connected state, and through connectivity, we try to create something special here,” said Harton. “The market supports each other, and we are excited to be here and can’t wait to see what growth continues to happen.”
Jacobs said they were also mindful with collaborating with local landscape groups, complementing the bank’s close proximity to Falls Park while remaining sensitive when it comes to the park and honoring the legacy of its location and adjacency to the park.
Harton was recently awarded the Order of the Palmetto by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster. The award is the state’s highest civilian honor for outstanding service to the state and outstanding achievements.
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