Inside Frost Tower: More Than an Office With a View

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Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Clouds are reflected by the Frost Tower, as seen from Houston Street.

The glass-paneled Frost Tower, the first major addition to the business district’s skyline in 25 years, reflects everything in its midst, from wide-open Texas skies to its neighboring downtown buildings.

But its head-turning exterior might be outdone by the views from within.
Under construction since February 2017, the 24-story building is now 80 percent occupied and the main level is open to the public.

On Tuesday, representatives for the developer Weston Urban and the tower’s primary tenant, Frost Bank, led tours of the building and showed off its soaring panoramic views, architectural details, smart technology features, and its nod to history.

Frost Bank employees began moving into the building’s first 12 floors in June. The 14th and 15th floors provide customer conference and employee meeting rooms – named after Texas cities where Frost Bank operates, Alamo defenders, and renowned members of the San Antonio Spurs.

The bank’s lobby and financial center opened July 1. There, customers can meet with bankers and tellers, use a smart ATM, and access their safety deposit boxes. A modern display of historical currency is reminiscent of a similar display in the former bank building lobby. A massive octagonal reception desk formed of imported Italian marble sits in the center of it all.

On the mezzanine level, overlooking the lobby, the Frost Loft features exhibits and interactive displays that tell the story of Frost Bank’s founding in 1868 and history in San Antonio. Visitors can see founder T.C. Frost’s desk and use a machine to get his signature on a document. This area also is open to the public.

A tenant-only space not yet open also is situated on the mezzanine level. The richly furnished “living room,” kitchen, and dining space features original art by Texas artists, including local artist Gary Sweeney, as well as stylish seating areas, and a wet bar. It is unlike anything offered in most office buildings, said Weston Urban CEO Randy Smith, who called it a “gift” to the tenants. He expects it to be available in October.

Also on display in this area are some of the 3,000 artifacts collected from the site during construction and cataloged, including bottles, weapons, tools, and pottery fragments from the early 19th century.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

The “living room” inside Frost Tower.

On the upper floors, accessed by two sets of security-controlled elevators, floor to ceiling windows span the exterior walls providing unbroken views. The only “corner offices” are spaces on each level where the twisting illusion of the building comes together. The twisting design causes the square footage that starts at 280,000 on floors 1-16 to slightly decrease with each level.

Current tenants of the office space in the building include the national law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, staffing firm Insight Global, and accounting firm EY. “Those are the ones we can speak about,” said Smith, who led the tours with a spokesman from Frost Bank.

On the 24th floor, the highest level, the space is not yet finished or occupied, leaving clear views from every angle of downtown and beyond. To the west, one can see the downtown campus of UTSA, phase two of the San Pedro Creek project, and the historic Alameda Theater where the new Texas Public Radio headquarters soon will be located.

Smith said there are several proposals pending for the highly sought-after 24th floor.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Reporters and photographers walk around the unfinished 24th floor of Frost Tower during a media tour.

To reach these upper floors, a bank of elevators driven by destination dispatch technology aggregates elevator trips. The rider uses a touch screen to tell the building which floor he wants to go to, and the building responds by finding the elevator that will get him there the fastest.

Tucked partially beneath the lower floors, the building also has a 732-space parking garage with ample space for bicycle storage, and retail restaurant space on the street level that will be leased.

Designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects of New Haven, Connecticut, alongside local architectural consultant Alamo Architects, the tower was built by Maryland-based Clark Construction Group for Weston Urban.

The San Antonio company Arrowall installed each pane of the facade – 187,396 square feet of glass, enough to cover a basketball court 40 times.

Tom Frost Jr. did not live to see the building that bears his name, and that of his forebears, fully completed. He died Aug. 9, 2018, at age 90, and a week later, the Frost logo was hoisted to the top of the structure.

Neither did the architect César Pelli, who died July 19 at age 92. Smith called their deaths his only regret.

But in the months before Frost passed away, as he watched the glass-paneled building take shape across from his office at the former Frost Bank building, he hand-wrote memos to Smith.

The notes about Frost’s observations of the construction project, Smith said, are now among his most cherished memorabilia.

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