Nordstrom will fill more than half the building's office space under a deal with the new owner.

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Telecommunications giant CenturyLink has sold the downtown Seattle tower its corporate ancestor built 36 years ago, and Nordstrom is leasing more than half the building’s office space.

New York real-estate investment firm Clarion Partners said Monday it paid $137 million for the 32-story building at 1600 Seventh Ave., between Pine Street and Olive Way. The sale is the second-largest real-estate transaction in King County so far this year.

The tower was built in 1976 as Pacific Northwest Bell’s headquarters and has had several names over the years, including 1600 Bell Plaza and until recently Qwest Plaza. CenturyLink acquired Qwest last year, becoming Washington’s largest traditional telephone company.

CenturyLink and its predecessors have been the building’s only occupant. Clarion said it plans a “significant renovation,” including updating the lobby and adding ground-floor retail and underground parking.

Nordstrom is leasing more than 300,000 square feet in the 598,000-square-foot tower, with plans to starting moving in this fall. CenturyLink also will remain a tenant, leasing 260,000 square feet.

The building was on the market on-and-off for several years as the phone company’s space needs declined. A CenturyLink spokeswoman said the tower has been only half occupied since 2008.

The tower “is not a fundamental component of our business strategy,” Brian Stading, CenturyLink’s Northwest regional president, said in a statement Monday.

Qwest had a buyer lined up in 2008, but that sale fell through.

Nordstrom’s 20-year lease is another sign of the company’s expansion. Even before the deal with Clarion, it occupied more than 1 million square feet in downtown Seattle, spokesman Colin Johnson said.

“This new location is to accommodate our continuing growth,” he said. “It’s a long-term solution.”

In addition to space above its flagship store at Sixth Avenue and Pine Street, which it owns, Nordstrom leases offices at 1700 Seventh Avenue, the Russell Investments Center/Seattle Art Museum complex, Metropolitan Park North and Century Square.

But the smaller leases at Met Park and Century Square are to expire by the end of 2013, said Trevor Clark of brokerage Broderick Group, and considering its new lease with Clarion, Nordstrom could choose to let those spaces go.

The Urban Renaissance Group, a Seattle real-estate company, represented Clarion in the sale and will operate the building for the new owner. It helped put together a similar deal in 2010, finding a buyer and a tenant for the nearly new but empty Seventh & Madison building on First Hill.

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com