Developer Martin Selig plans to build a luxury apartment building that would rise 14 stories along a northern edge of Seattle's new Olympic...

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Developer Martin Selig plans to build a luxury apartment building that would rise 14 stories along a northern edge of Seattle’s new Olympic Sculpture Park, dramatically altering the backdrop to the park’s amphitheater and one of its signature artworks.

The building would go up where a two-story parking garage is now, just beyond the terraced amphitheater and the sunken courtyard where Richard Serra’s “Wake” is installed.

Several condominiums have popped up along the fringes of the $85 million waterfront park, which opened last year to international fanfare. But unlike those buildings, which are across the street, the Selig development would border the sculpture park, being situated just 15 feet from the property line.

“We’re very, very sensitive to the integration of this luxury apartment building to the sculpture park,” Selig said.

Officials of the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), which manages the park, are choosing their words cautiously when asked about impact the 78-unit building could have on the park’s open feel.

“Members of SAM’s senior staff have met with Martin Selig about the design of his proposed building on the north corner of the Olympic Sculpture Park,” Mimi Gardner Gates, SAM’s director, said in a prepared statement. “We will continue to work with him as the design process and review moves forward.”

SAM spokeswoman Erika Lindsay added that museum officials are resigned to the fact that the building will be built, and have shared their concerns with Selig.

“We just want to make sure it’s done in a sensitive way,” Lindsay said. “At this point, we think it will be, but since our conversations with Mr. Selig are ongoing, we’re not comfortable making much comment. He knows what we want.”

Selig, who has owned the garage property for 24 years, said museum officials never talked to him during the development of the park about possibly obtaining the land as a buffer for the park, or about limiting his development on it.

He said concerns of museum officials have been incorporated into the preliminary designs of the building, and that both he and they are satisfied with the results.

“This is a big love fest,” he said. “Everybody is happy.”

Well, not everybody. Don Hussong is an ocean mapper whose office is at Pier 69, near the park. Since the park opened, he has considered it a world-class landmark for Seattle. He now fears it will be overwhelmed by a clumsy, bulky neighbor.

“When I look at the design and size of that building, to my mind it’s going to dominate the skyline in this whole area and encroach on the park considerably,” said Hussong, who learned about the project while attending a city Design Review Board meeting last month. “Having that building hanging over the park, I can’t imagine it doing anything but seriously impacting the park.”

Selig said the apartment building would not cast shadows on the park due to the positioning of the sun. He also said he agreed with museum officials to move the building 10 feet farther from the property line than required. The building height conforms to existing zoning, he said.

Selig said the project is fully financed and could break ground as early as late summer or fall, but would depend on market conditions and obtaining proper permits from the city. The project has just begun working its way through the city bureaucracy, currently undergoing design review.

The building would straddle Western and Elliott avenues, replacing a parking garage that serves another Selig development, the Airborne Express building to the north. From the park, only the southern face of the garage is visible, looking like a concrete retaining wall. The gray facade sometimes is tagged with graffiti, which has led some park visitors to complain about it as a blight.

Hussong said the garage, though an unattractive backdrop, at least is only two stories tall. He said he admires the cylindrical design of Selig’s Airborne Express building, which rises eight stories in the distance, approximately half a football field from the park property line.

“It’s further away, smaller, an interesting shape and seems fitting to the surroundings and context of the park,” he said.

But Hussong said he is not impressed with the preliminary designs for the apartment building, calling it ordinary, with a lot of glass and a lot of balconies. “It’s going to be ugly,” he said.

Selig though, said the building will be beautiful.

“We feel a heavy responsibility that what we do there has got to be absolutely first-class,” he said. “It’s one of the finest sites for an apartment house on the West Coast. It has a view of this magnificent park, the city, the Sound. Nothing is in the way of that view and nothing ever will be.”

Stuart Eskenazi: 206-464-2293 or seskenazi@seattletimes.com