The new headquarters will replace the current headquarters, located in the Bank of America Corporate Center at Trade and Tryon streets
Special to The Chronicle
The new headquarters will replace the current headquarters, located in the Bank of America Corporate Center at Trade and Tryon streets

A "topping out ceremony" was held earlier this month to mark the securing of the uppermost beam atop the Charlotte-based Duke Endowment's new headquarters.

Preparation for the construction of the new headquarters began in September 2011. The new headquarters at 800 E. Morehead Street—spanning 1.8 acres in the Dilworth neighborhood of Charlotte—will replace the current headquarters, located in the Bank of America Corporate Center at Trade and Tryon streets, according to a press release. The new headquarters is expected to be completely finished in the summer of 2014.

“The Endowment’s new headquarters will allow its grantees and guests easier access to meetings and program-related events sponsored by the Endowment," said Arthur Morehead, general counsel of the Endowment. "The Dilworth neighborhood was an ideal location given its proximity to Charlotte’s Center City and accessibility from most major thoroughfares.”

The Duke Endowment—which is separate from the University's endowment—was founded in 1924 by James B. Duke to support health care, rural churches, childcare initiatives and higher education. The Endowment has assets of $2.8 billion, making it one of the largest private foundations in the nation. The organization has donated nearly $1.5 billion to Duke, according to its website.

The Endowment is responsible for the largest single donation ever given to the University—the $80 million funding the renovations of West Union, Baldwin Auditorium and Page Auditorium.

The Dilworth location in Charlotte was chosen as a central point between North and South Carolina in order to make the headquarter accessible to grantees throughout both states, Morehead said.

“This will be our home for years to come [and] it will be a beautiful place for us to deepen our commitment to the Carolinas,” said Minor Shaw, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Duke Endowment, at the topping-out ceremony.

The three-story building includes a conference center on the first floor with space for meetings and large events and employee offices on the second and third floor, said Jack Ossa, the building's architect.

“The building is projected to last for 100 years,” Ossa said.

He said that he designed the building for long-term stability and quality by using limestone—known for its durability—as the main material.

The Endowment funds Duke, as well as three other schools—Davidson College, Furman University and Johnson C. Smith University—in efforts to become more environmentally sustainable, and so the organization considered eco-friendliness with its own construction, Morehead said.

"it was important to the Endowment that its new building be LEED-certified by the U.S. Green Building Council,” he noted.

In order to meet LEED certification, the building is oriented at a specific angle so that the amount of sunlight that floods into offices throughout the day will reduce the amount of artificial light being used. Additionally, on top of the two-story underground parking deck, a metal roof will collect rainwater that can be used for irrigation, Ossa said.

The plans also include a gated courtyard featuring plants, trees, benches, and a fountain, Ossa added.

In order to construct the building, the Endowment needed to rezone the land, Morehead noted. The property was originally listed for commercial use, and the Endowment's construction required it to be classified as mixed use.

“The primary obstacle encountered to date was the length of time it took to rezone the property,” he said.

Reaching this point in construction has taken over 50,000 hours, Pat Rodgers of Rodgers Builders, the contractor of the building, said at the topping out ceremony.