Local artist Bill FitzGibbons has been commissioned by the owners of the Bank of America Plaza in downtown San Antonio to transform the 28-story office tower into a dynamic work of art. The “Kinetic Skyline” switch will be flipped on the evening of Thursday, March 31, adding splashes of brilliant blues and greens to the San Antonio skyline.

“We don’t want to do a disco downtown,” FitzGibbons said with a laugh on Wednesday. “It will be on the elegant side as well as contemporary.”

The colors were chosen to compliment the nearby San Antonio River and San Pedro Creek, he said.

Like many of FitzGibbons’ projects locally and internationally, the lights will follow two or three different regular “programs” that will control brightness, tone, and pattern throughout the night. Almost all downtown towers have different lights for holidays and special occasions, but FitzGibbons’ installations, like “San Antonio Colorline” on University Health Systems’ building, are beyond festive lightbulbs – they’re high-powered LED works of art.

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“It’s not going to be like looking at bright neon because the building itself has a masonry surface that will soften the colors some,” he said of the LED tracks that will be placed on the north and south-facing exterior walls.

Electrician crews have been working for about three months to install about 52 fixtures on tracks along the building’s stair-like exterior. The tallest column of light stretches almost 300 feet.

Corporations incorporating art into development projects’ art is no new concept, FitzGibbons said. Almost all major cities have corporate partners that routinely bring high-caliber works of art to public space. “Cloud Gate” sits in the AT&T Plaza in Chicago’s Millenium Park, for instance.

Real estate investment companies Clarion Partners and Griffin Partners purchased the building at 300 Convent St. in late 2014 and have been working on a long term renovation strategy for the 542,835 square foot space ever since, said Larry Mendez, executive managing director of Transwestern, which leases the building.

“(The owners) felt strongly about the impact a large public art installation like this could have and it’s ability to not only contribute to the community but set (the building) apart,” Mendez said.

The previous owners, Talcott Realty Investors of Hartford, Conn., took great care of the building, he added, “but they didn’t do anything proactive … it was more of a status quo building for them. (Clarion and Griffin Partners) bought it with the belief in what’s going on in downtown San Antonio and an understanding of the momentum that is happening.”

Renovations on the building’s entire first floor are underway to make way for a more modern, open lobby and about 9,000 square feet for a restaurant. As more housing, retail and culinary options come online in the urban core, more investments are being made in high-quality office space.

“The next thing you know (downtown residents) are going to to want to work here, too,” Mendez said.

A section of San Antonio's skyline looking west from left: Bank of America Plaza, One Riverwalk Place, Weston Centre, and the Wyndham San Antonio River Walk Hotel. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
A section of San Antonio’s skyline looking west from left: Bank of America Plaza, One Riverwalk Place, Weston Centre, and the Wyndham San Antonio River Walk Hotel. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Just a few blocks away from Bank of America Plaza, the new Frost Bank office tower is slated to begin construction this year. Once completed in 2017 or 2018, it will be the first new office tower with a parking garage in the city since the Weston Centre opened in 1988.

Bank of America is one of the plaza’s primary tenants, as is OCI Solar and some of the city’s most prominent law firms. According to Mendez, Bank of America Plaza is approximately 90% occupied.

“We want to retain our tenants and we want to attract the best tenants that are out there,” he said of the work that he and his colleague, Transwestern Broker Brad Kaufman, have put into the building.

Lobby improvements will also include an element of public art when a 30-foot long, 42-inch high seamless LED “video wall,” is installed facing out onto the street.

“So as people are walking by and going to the Tobin, they are going to see that glowing out of our lobby,” Mendez said. “It will be a project canvas for digital art that will run all day and most of the night.”

Main entrance to the Bank of America Plaza at 300 Convent Street. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Main entrance to the Bank of America Plaza at 300 Convent Street. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
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 *Top Image:Rendering of “Kinetic Skyline” for the Bank of America. Courtesy of Bill FitzGibbons.

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Iris Dimmick

Iris Dimmick

Senior reporter Iris Dimmick covers City Hall, politics, development, and more. Contact her at iris@sareport.org