Downtown tower gets new name as ownership shifts
Scratch the bank’s name from Bank of America Fifth Avenue Plaza — it’s given up nearly three quarters of the space it once leased in the building.
Seattle Times business reporter
Bank of America has lost naming rights to 800 Fifth Avenue, one of Seattle’s tallest skyscrapers, which was sold last month to a new group of investors.
The 42-story tower was completed in 1981 by Houston developer Hines as a build-to-suit for Seafirst Bank, then the state’s largest bank. Seafirst got swallowed by Bank of America, and the tower was later renamed Bank of America Fifth Avenue Plaza.
The silver-colored building is kitty-corner from the taller black tower — which Bank of America and Seafirst also once filled up — that is now called Columbia Center.
Fast forward to April, when after two years of negotiations, Bank of America got out of a 35-year lease with Hines. Under a new 10-year lease, Bank of America gave back 550,000 square feet and retained about 200,000 square feet, according to several sources familiar with the matter. Bank of America also lost the naming rights.
The vacancy rate in the 934,115-square-foot building zoomed from 0.4 percent in March to 9.7 percent in September, according to OfficeSpace.com.
Meanwhile, Hines reached a deal to buy out Hawaii-based James Campbell Co., from which Hines leased the land beneath the tower. That marked a win for Hines: When ground leases expire, the buildings on the land generally revert to the land’s owner.
Over the summer, Hines agreed to buy out Block 24 Seattle, a Texas-based Hines limited partnership that leased the land from James Campbell Co.
On Sept. 25, all the pieces came together: 800 Fifth Avenue Partners Owner, an entity controlled by Hines, paid $165 million to James Campbell Co. for the land and $111.4 million to Block 24 Seattle for its interest in the ground lease, public records show.
A Hines spokeswoman said 800 Fifth Avenue Partners Owner is a partnership between Hines and an undisclosed investment partner.
The new investment group financed the deal with $176.1 million borrowed from Morgan Stanley Bank. A financing statement shows the borrower’s address is the Los Angeles office of J.P. Morgan’s asset-management arm.
Part of the loan likely will be used for major renovations to make the tower appealing to today’s tenants, brokers said. According to OfficeSpace.com, the building has about 90,750 square feet available.
“The timing couldn’t be any better for Hines when almost no large blocks of space are left in downtown Seattle,” said Matt Christian, executive director of Cushman & Wakefield Commerce, which represented Bank of America in its new lease. “Hines is recapitalizing the building and bringing it back to the market with new tenants.”
At the end of the third quarter, the vacancy rate in Seattle’s central business district was about 11 percent, with 300,000 square feet of space under construction, according to commercial-real-estate brokerage JLL.
Though Bank of America remains the tower’s biggest tenant, it will soon have another big tenant: Providence Health & Services has signed a 10-year lease for about 140,000 square feet and will move in administrative staff from a Renton office early next year. Swedish Health Services, which is affiliated with Providence, also will move staff there out of One Union Square.
“Naming rights are not off the table,” a Hines spokeswoman said in an email. “They are open to conversations with tenants, but there is no immediate plan to change the name again.”
The property now is simply known as 800 Fifth Avenue, the spokeswoman said. Vestiges of the past remain, though: The building’s touch-pad directory still welcomes visitors to “Bank of America Fifth Avenue Plaza.”