Puget Sound Business Journal writes:

A wave of office lobby renovations swept Seattle three years ago as landlords sought to make older buildings sleeker to compete with new towers.

The latest to get a makeover is the 42-story 800 Fifth, one of Seattle’s major high-rises. Officials of 800 Fifth owner Hines showed off the $46 million renovation during an exclusive tour.

It’s a remarkable transformation, especially in the expanded lobby, which has gone from a dreary pass-through space to a light-filled gathering place. “(The lobby) was all gray in a gray city,” Hines Senior Managing Director Ty Bennionsaid.

The building was developed primarily for Seafirst Bank (now Bank of America), which three years ago greatly reduced the amount of space it leased in the tower. That offered an opportunity to shift the building to a multi-tenant property, which now hosts other companies including Providence Health & Services.

Designed by LMN Architects of Seattle and built by GLY Construction of Bellevue, the renovation expanded the lobby by more than a third, remodeled all of the bathrooms throughout the tower and upgraded the elevator cars.

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In addition, an old data center on two floors near the base of the building has gone from a mostly windowless space to 80,000 square feet of window-lined office space.

Well lit white marble replaced gray granite in the lobby while dark aluminum mullions were removed from the lobby windows. Where there was once only a small seating area, there are now a range of gathering places, mostly on a new mezzanine with modern furnishings.

GLY pulled off the year-long job as the workday population of 800 Fifth grew from 2,000 to 2,500 workers.

“You can can take your time and have the least impact. You can rip off the Band-Aid and cause a lot of impact. We settled on something right in between,” said Hines Vice President of Property Management Kathy O’Kelley.

The 934,000-square-foot tower is 76 percent occupied. At the same time, two big new high-rises are finishing construction across the street.

“Our building needed to be modernized. It has great bones, but a dreary entrance,” Bennion said. “We think it’s built right to compete with new buildings but the first impression wasn’t good. We knew we needed to spend some money on this.”

Marc Stiles covers real estate for the Puget Sound Business Journal.