Oct 2, 2023 - Business

It’s giving “tacky”: Mixed opinions erupt over Wells Fargo skyline sign before it even goes up

Who does a skyline belong to?

City residents often “adopt skylines as their own,” says Charlotte architect Paul Kardous. It makes sense that when a change is suggested such as a big, branded sign across the top of a symbolic skyscraper, people voice strong opinions.

Driving the news: Wells Fargo is planning to put two new signs atop the former Duke Energy Center at 550 South Tryon St, as first reported by WSOC.

Why it matters: Our skyline is rapidly changing. It’s expanding as new towers go up in South End, and now it’s moving toward a more corporate look.

  • It’s not uncommon to see company names sprawled across skyscrapers in other U.S. cities.

Wells Fargo sees the building’s architecture and design as a branding placement opportunity with clear views, said company spokesperson Josh Dunn.

  • “We are proud to elevate the Wells Fargo brand and build awareness for our company through building signage, joining numerous other major companies with a presence in Uptown Charlotte,” he added.

Zoom out: Wells Fargo owns the building. Wachovia, which Wells Fargo acquired in 2008, built the 48-story tower in the 2000s. It’s worth $393 million. Dissenters would contend that it’s the company’s right to put up two new signs, spanning more than 3,700 square feet, if it so pleases.

  • Still, the bank must get approval from the city first before putting up the sign. There is no timeline for when this could happen. Rezoning petitions, especially controversial ones, can take months.

Flashback: One recent instance when a prominent new logo appeared on the Charlotte skyline was when Truist added its glowing sign on the former Hearst Tower. Its appearance ignited a citywide outcry. Even the building’s architect petitioned for its removal.

duke wells fargo tryon south skyline
Photo: Andy Weber/Axios

We asked prominent Charlotteans what they thought about the addition at the time. Then-state senator, now-Congressman Jeff Jackson told us, “Not awful, but hopefully not a trend.”

What they’re saying: “Charlotte has a beautiful skyline,” Kardous, with Row Architecture, tells Axios. “A lot of that is due to buildings that announce themselves with their design, and most of the signage is at street level or discreet, on purpose.”

Zoom in: The proposed signs are part of $500-plus million in planned upgrades to Wells Fargo’s workspaces and properties over the next five years. It’s remodeling 21 floors in the tower. By the end of the year, it will take over space vacated by Duke Energy and occupy 95% of the building.

[Go deeper: What’s next for the Duke Energy Center and other Uptown offices]

  • Wells is also upgrading its lighting on the South Tryon building. The company oversees the popular program that lights up the skyline for special events or causes. It’s typically Panthers blue on game days. It will be pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month on Oct. 4 and rainbow for National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11.

We asked readers what they thought of the potential new addition to the skyline. Responses are edited for clarity and brevity.

  • “Charlotte is the second biggest banking hub in the country and that’s worth celebrating!” — Kaitlyn Y.
  • “Imagine an ad smack onto Mount Rushmore” — Cavan S.
  • “Not necessary at all but if they add lights I’m fine with it” — Mariah A.
  • “They should be allowed to do it. It’s an expensive property. But if they want their own colors for branding at least make it gold. Would look better than the red on a blueish building.” — Drew G.
  • “When the sign has more square footage than most of the apartments in Charlotte” — Danny T.
  • “I feel like those funds could be used to give back to their employees… instead of a new sign?” — Priscilla E.
  • “I just want to know what the crane system is for on top of the building” — Ryan A. (It’s there permanently for routine maintenance and window washing.)
  • “No. That’s going look so tacky,” “So tacky,” “Tacky,” “Tacky,” “Soooo tacky noooo,” “It gives tacky to me” — Naomi M., Ben S., Matt B., Breanna N., Zechariah O., Linnea, respectively.
  • “Boooooo. Don’t mess with the giant martini glass.” — John B.
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