Let there be light: Atlas Capital will overhaul windowless Pasadena office block

Revamp of Bank of America building’s travertine facade comes as office market still struggles

Rendering of the new Pasadena office and existing building inset. (JLL, 101 South Marengo)
Rendering of the new Pasadena office and existing building inset. (JLL, 101 South Marengo)

A year after Atlas Capital Group paid $72 million for a massive, windowless office complex in Pasadena, the firm has embarked on a complete overhaul amid a local office market hit hard by the pandemic.

Atlas reworked plans to transform 101 S. Marengo Avenue, known as the Bank of America building, from the ones previous owner Woodridge Capital Partners conceived.

Atlas tapped design firm RIOS for the project, which will add floor-to-ceiling windows to the 300,000-square-foot building. While Woodridge’s own proposal included installing windows, they were not as large as the ones RIOS designed. Atlas announced its plans in a news release.

The L.A. area office market has sunk amid the pandemic, as vacancy rates and subleases have jumped.

CBRE’s first-quarter office market report showed the Tri-Cities submarket with a 16.4 percent vacancy rate — Pasadena is in that submarket. That’s slightly under the overall L.A. office market vacancy rate, which stood at 17.2 percent. Tri-Cities was one of the few submarkets where office vacancy didn’t rise in Q1. Despite the empty space, developers are still building, on track to deliver 7 million square feet of office space this year in L.A., more than any other major market nationwide.

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Modernist architect Edward Durell Stone designed the distinctive Bank of America building in 1974, with a façade of flat travertine slabs, entirely closing off the interior office space to the outside world. He designed the building as a credit card processing facility for Bank of America, the building’s first and only tenant.

While the brick-like complex made it something of an informal landmark in Pasadena, the aesthetic likely doesn’t make it attractive to tenants. For the upgrade, the windows will open up the roughly 70,000-square-foot floor plates, which leasing brokerage JLL said are among the largest contiguous spaces in Los Angeles.

The lobby will also be rebuilt, with interior and exterior courtyards refreshed, according to Atlas. The exterior courtyards wrapping the building total around 82,000 square feet. New air filtration systems will be installed, along with a gym.

Atlas expects to complete the renovation by the first quarter of 2022.