The Columbia Center (formerly the Bank of America Tower and the Columbia Seafirst Center) is the tallest skyscraper in the downtown Seattle skyline, as well as the tallest building in the State of Washington. It occupies most of the block bounded by Fourth and Fifth Avenues and Cherry and Columbia Streets. Standing at a height of 937 feet (285 m), it was the tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi River when construction was finished; it is currently fourth by that metric, the second tallest building on the West Coast, and the nineteenth tallest building in the United States. It contains 76 stories of office space above ground and seven stories of various use below ground, making it the building with the most stories west of the Mississippi. Construction of this building began in 1982 and finished in 1985. It was designed by Chester L. Lindsey Architects who also designed the Fourth and Blanchard Building in the Belltown neighborhood, and was built by Howard S. Wright Construction Co.
The base of the building is clad in Rosa Purino Carnelian granite, giving the building an elegant appearance. The building's structure is composed of three geometric arches, causing the building to appear like three towers standing side by side. The tower was originally designed to be about 1,005 feet (306.5 meters) tall, but federal regulations by the FAA would not allow it to be that tall so close to the nearby Sea-Tac Airport. Prolific Seattle-area developer Martin Selig (b. 1936) used "public amenities," such as retail space and public areas, as "bonuses" to get around building code limitations, such as the height. There is an observation deck on the 73rd floor which offers views of Seattle and environs. The top two floors of the building (75th and 76th) are occupied by the private Columbia Tower Club, which houses a restaurant, bar, library, and meeting rooms. An underground concourse connects the building to the nearby Seattle Municipal Tower and Bank of America Fifth Avenue Plaza.
The tower was originally named the Columbia Center when it was first built. The name was later changed to Columbia Seafirst Center, for Seafirst Bank, and then to the Bank of America Tower, when Seafirst, which had been owned by Bank of America since 1983, was fully integrated into BofA. That name gave it the nickname "BOAT" (Bank of America Tower). In November 2005, the building's name was changed back to the Columbia Center (TCC). However, Bank of America still has a branch in the building.
On June 16, 2004, the 9/11 Commission reported that the original plan for the September 11, 2001, attacks called for the hijacking of ten planes, to be crashed into targets including the "tallest buildings in California and Washington State," which would have been the Columbia Center and the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles.
A number of companies and firms rent office space in the tower. The largest include Bank of America, Heller Ehrman LLP, and Amazon.com.
Columbia Center plays host to the largest firefighter competition in the world. About 1,300 firefighters from around the world yearly make the trek up 69 floors and 1,311 steps wearing their full firefighter gear. This event benefits the local chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma society.