Columbia's Wachovia building won't get crown

COLUMBIA -- The nation's banking crisis has taken a bite out of Columbia's skyline.

Wachovia bank has shelved plans to place a 29-foot glass sculpture on its new regional headquarters -- the former First Union tower at Hampton and Main streets.

"Renovations are still planned for the ground floor and facade, but the crown will not happen," said Ryan Hyler of Colliers Keenan, the firm that manages the 1441 Main St. building.

Wachovia has struggled since buying a West Coast financial firm loaded with subprime loans in 2006. The turmoil came to a head this month when Wachovia agreed to be purchased by Wells Fargo.

"The timing wasn't right right now," said architect Ashby Gressette of Stevens & Wilkinson. "But they can always come back and add it later."

The sculpture atop the 14-story building would have featured three overlapping boxes with slightly angled tops, mimicking the bank's logo. It would have been backlit at night.

The cost was to be about 20 percent of the $5 million project.

Wachovia must leave the Palmetto Center across Main Street because its landlord, SCANA, is moving to a new corporate campus in Cayce next year.

Despite gaining two new office towers and a third on the way, Main Street is bracing for the departure of SCANA's 1,100 workers. The Fortune 500 company will empty 450,000 square feet of space downtown.

However, an undisclosed buyer has the center and its 471,000-square feet of office space under contract.

Coble said Wachovia's commitment to keep its 150 employees downtown is appreciated, sculpture or no sculpture.

"If that's all we have to worry about, that's a good thing," he said. "We are just very grateful they are staying on Main Street."

The remainder of Wachovia's renovations of the First Union tower include installing clear windows all along the sidewalk on Main Street that will show off a new lobby with video screens and a new urban-style bank branch that will replace the existing one.

The bank's name will go atop the building along with white strips and columns that will stand out on the dark glass facade.

The elevator shaft core will be renovated. And the plaza, sidewalks and landscaping will be updated.

The intent of the clear glass is to open up the bank lobby to Main Street and to modernize the building's look.

"It an opportunity to make the building lighter, cooler and more up to date," Gressette said.

The work is scheduled to start early in 2009 and be completed that fall.