By Liviu Oltean, Associate Editor
In 1985, years before the formation of the U.S. Green Building Council, IBM Corp. and Los Angeles-based Maguire Thomas Partners (now Maguire Properties Inc.) formed a joint venture with the specific goal of creating an office campus that would stray from the architectural conventions of the decade: tall, somber and cold. The result was the Solana Business Park in Dallas, a low-rise, colorful, mixed-use office complex surrounded by hundreds of acres of Texas prairie.
Since its completion in 1989, Solana Business Park has catered more to the modern office worker than to the traditional 9-5er. With its three colorful 100-foot pylons and abundant vegetation, the business park struck a chord even with Pulitzer Prize winner and architecture critic Paul Goldberger, who described it as “a development that, in general, stands as one of the few suburban projects anywhere to offer intensity of architectural experience without descending into irrelevance and pretension.”
But Solana is due for an upgrade. In an attempt to fully align it with the needs and wants of today’s modern office worker, Equity Office Properties, a Blackstone Group affiliate, has unveiled plans to invest more than $50 million in a revitalization, enlisting the help of architectural firm 5G Studio Collaborative, known for strikingly modern projects such as the Omni Dallas Hotel, the Mega Kuningan Tower in Jakarta and Riverwalk Village in Roswell, Ga.
Commercial Property Executive talked with Stephen Park, 5G Studio architect & co-lead on the Solana redevelopment, about its role in the revival of the renowned business park.
CPE: What are the challenges in redesigning Solana’s 230-acre campus?
Park: Solana is a great destination, combining multiple campuses and types of uses with beautifully landscaped parks, walks, drives and vistas. Tenants have always enjoyed easy access to DFW International Airport, a well-educated employee base, and a work environment focused on employee retention, collaborative spaces and expansion opportunities. The challenge of Solana is synonymous with its opportunity: It is the scale of all these assets and advantages it already enjoys.
CPE: A New York Times article published in 1989 described Solana as a unique office complex. How will the renovation build upon the complex’s uniqueness?
Park: Solana has many assets in its context and location that appeal to the corporate community. Our design builds upon the uniqueness of the original design, with a vision that responds to the rural Texas setting of Solana: It is a sophisticated prairie expression that provides a modern “ranch cool” campus, connecting businesses and their employees with amenities they want in a work environment.
CPE: 5G Studio designed projects such as the Omni Dallas Convention Center Hotel and the NYLO Dallas. How will the firm’s design philosophy apply to a business center like Solana, which also has traditional elements?
Park: Solana is a multi-faceted real estate opportunity that includes hotel, retail, sports/fitness and commercial office occupancies, as well as new pedestrian parks, structured parking and monument signage. The ownership of Solana selected 5G Studio not just for the firm’s notable design success on hospitality objects but also for its breadth of creative design experience in all the types of opportunities that the revitalized Solana will have to offer. We are experts in creating community and business environments. 5G Studio is currently designing the new Wade Park commercial high-rise and hospitality towers in Frisco, as well as the Mega Kuningan Office Tower in Jakarta, Indonesia. 5G Studio has also designed successful dining destinations that are energetic catalysts along Main Street in Downtown Dallas, such as Dallas Chop House, Wild Salsa and Dallas Fish Market. We’re excited to engage almost every aspect of our design prowess in one opportunity, as we can at Solana. It’s not about any one specific use; it’s about the total environment that all those uses create synergistically when they combine in a magnificently complementary way. Solana is going to be a fantastic destination to work, stay and dine.
CPE: What is your opinion of Solana architects Romaldo Giurgola (of New York firm Mitchell/Giurgola) and Ricardo Legorreta (of Mexico City firm Legorreta Arquitectos)’s business park from an architectural perspective?
Park: Solana is one of the most daring and ambitious architectural concepts for a corporate campus to be built in the 20th century. It was made to be an inspiring environment, not just a set of buildings. In many ways, it was ahead of its time and included amenities that are only becoming common today in response to the new workplace trends and habits that are being driven by the X, Y and Millennial generations. The foresight of the original designers is what makes Solana so exciting and relevant to today’s commercial marketplace.
CPE: What should tenants expect from Solana Business Park in the future?
Park: Starting this month, Solana will undergo significant improvements, including increased structured parking, improved way-finding systems, extensive interior and exterior renovations, enhanced landscaping and significant upgrades to the retail amenities, including the 38,000-square-foot Larry North Fitness Center. Equity Office and 5G Studio will announce the first official designs for the development in the first quarter of 2015.