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Originally published Tuesday, November 22, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Region's loftiest building renamed

For its 20th anniversary, Seattle's tallest office building is getting a new name — one similar to its old name. The 76-story curved black-glass...

Seattle Times business reporter

For its 20th anniversary, Seattle's tallest office building is getting a new name — one similar to its old name.

The 76-story curved black-glass landmark, recently called the Bank of America Tower, will henceforth be called the Columbia Center, the building's owner, Chicago-based Equity Office, said Monday.

The name change came after Bank of America, once the building's largest tenant, had gradually reduced the space it needed in the tower.

"Our presence [in the building] is much less significant than it used to be," bank spokesman Michael Chee said.

The decision to relinquish naming rights to the building was mutually agreeable, he said.

The bank is keeping its branch in the building, Chee said, and the name change did not reflect any change in the bank's commitment to Washington state, where it has 238 branches and 6,000 employees.

The bank is keeping its name on another Seattle office tower, the 42-story Bank of America Fifth Avenue Plaza at 800 Fifth Avenue.

Pat Callahan, the top Equity Office executive in the Northwest, said that with the building no longer named for the bank, it made sense to return the building to its roots rather than name it for another corporate client.

The tower has been named for a bank since it was christened Columbia Seafirst Center in 1985, for then-Seafirst Bank, and many Seattleites still refer to the building as Columbia Tower.

"We certainly were aware of that — it had such a brand identification already that the name should reinforce that," Callahan said.

Equity, which bought the building for $404 million in 1998, has been gradually refurbishing its interior, softening its look with wood finishes and playful sculptures in the lobby.

Equity has managed to lease much of the building's vacant space, reportedly attracting Amazon.com to take several floors.

Listings with officespace.com indicate less than 10 percent of the 1.5 million-square-foot building is available to lease, down from more than 25 percent two years ago.

Tom Boyer: 206-464-2923 or tboyer@seattletimes.com

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