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Flashy roof signals near completion of tower and cultural campus

http://66.225.205.104/JR20091015.mp3

The Wells Fargo Cultural Campus and office tower on Tryon Street are nearing completion, after more than six years of planning and construction. Last week, the Knight Theater opened to a full house. The new Gantt African American Cultural Center opens its doors next week. WFAE's Julie Rose reports on what's next. The cultural campus and office tower are an $800 million project and it's Bob Bertges' job to keep it all on track. But there's one question he gets more than any other. "Everyone always asks, 'Why is the top taking so long?'" says Bertges, director of real estate for Wachovia. "I tell them it's complicated." The roof is 48 floors up and it has loads of intricate angles and glass. But Tuesday night, Bertges hit the switch on the real secret of the tower's roof: A massive computerized light panel. "We can put candy stripes on it," says Bertges. "We can put Panther colors up there on game day. We can put holiday colors up there. We certainly don't plan to be you know, garish with it. But it's a way to help establish something in Charlotte that's unique and that takes off of the cultural vibrance that's all around the base of the building." The colorfully-lit office tower will be finished by the end of the year and house the headquarters of Duke Energy. Bertges says some tenants will move in sooner. Across the plaza from the tower, the new Bechtler Modern Art Museum will open in January, followed by the Mint Museum next October. Center City Partners CEO Michael Smith says the city was lucky it secured $158 million in taxpayer funding for the museums and theater before the recession hit. "Charlotte is very fortunate, while we had the wind at our back that we made these kind of commitments and built this kind of cultural infrastructure," says Smith. "These are going to be assets that will enjoyed for generations to come." There are still challenges ahead, including attracting audiences to fill the new theater and museums and businesses to rent the new office space. Charitable fundraising to operate the new facilities is behind schedule. And the recession forced Wachovia to table plans for a 46-floor condominium tower indefinitely.