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Friday, November 16, 2007

Looking Down on the Olympic Sculpture Park

posted by on November 16 at 15:50 PM

The best thing about the Olympic Sculpture Park is Wake—graceful and industrial. The worst thing about the Olympic Sculpture Park is the concrete warehouse right behind Wake—a “historical site.”

Behold them both.


And say goodbye to the ugly box. Constructed in 1939 for Glaser Brothers, purveyors of wholesale cigars and tobacco, the utilitarian one-story building at 3031 Western Avenue is now used as a parking garage. The Department of Neighborhoods calls it one of the category 4 historical sites, which “have been so altered that they would not qualify as Seattle landmarks.” But according to city data, there have been few alterations to the property. It’s just ugly.

Good riddance. Martin Selig, Seattle’s most infamous developer and delinquent payer of electricity bills, owns the site. And earlier this month he paid $2,370 to start the application process to obtain a master use permit. The preliminary proposal, says Michael Dorcy of the city’s Department of Planning and Development, is for a 14-story, 78-unit apartment building. Here’s a rendering.


More after the jump.

Here's the side view. Wake would be in the bottom left corner.


This is the description on Selig’s Web site.

While the project is in an early programming and conceptual stage, the vision calls for layers of glass “veils” with various degrees of translucency and transparency to create an ephemeral and ever-changing canvas for light and shadow as viewed from the park. Balconies of each unit will feature floor-to-ceiling glass, blurring the boundaries between interior and exterior spaces while providing further solar shading and privacy.

In other words, residents will be able to gaze at Wake without people gazing back at them. Those folks looking at Wake, however, will feel like they’re in a fishbowl even more than they already do. Constructing residential property is a shift for Selig, whose 20 other Downtown spaces are primary rented as offices. Residential buildings are allowed up to 125' at that site; commercial developments are only allowed up to 65', says Dorcy.

I’ve placed calls to Selig Real Estate and the architects, Ruffcorn Mott Hinthorne and Stine – designers of the crucifix-themed IDX Tower – to ask about the plans, and will update if I hear back.

DPD has scheduled an initial meeting for design guidance, open to the public, on Tuesday, January 8.

BONUS: Commenter Dr. Awesome points out that the parking garage, in addition to being ugly, is creepy as hell. He's totally right. Here's a picture--sadly, you can't see the foreboding wooden owl hanging from the ceiling just outside the frame.


RSS icon Comments


I like the contrast of the waves with the perpindicular sand colored box.

The real eyesore is the burgeoning 1980's era houston office building lumbering in the backround.

Posted by jesse | November 16, 2007 3:59 PM

And the burgeoning 1980's houston office building was created by...Martin Selig. Plus ca change.

Posted by tomasyalba | November 16, 2007 4:03 PM

Yay! Apartments!

Posted by w7ngman | November 16, 2007 4:09 PM

Sucks to live at corner of Bay and Western!

Posted by jseattle | November 16, 2007 4:11 PM


I sorta like the rendering. Check out the roof thing that opens for the tree/courtyard

Posted by Lake | November 16, 2007 4:15 PM

hooray for the new building! that old one is an eyesore.

Posted by hooray | November 16, 2007 4:16 PM
Posted by jesse | November 16, 2007 4:22 PM

On a Sunday afternoon, when the city is pretty empty, that parking garage is also empty. Go check it out: A creepy, spooky urban space that, when empty and silent, is almost tangibly evil. There's a strange loft-style office packed up above the garage floor, way in the back. It's accessed by a rickety wooden stairway, and has several dead, dark windows overlooking the interior of the garage.

Remember when The Stranger did a whole issue on scary urban spaces a couple Hallowe'ens back? That garage shoulda been in that issue. I'm sure some person or another had to come to a misfortunate end in there once.

Posted by Dr_Awesome | November 16, 2007 4:22 PM

When I started reading, I thought the office building in the back was what Dominic was writing about. (Jesse @1 nailed the description.) Hopefully the new building will completely block it from view. The design may be a bit trendy, but it'd be a huge improvement just the same.

And let me join the chorus: YAY, APARTMENTS!

Posted by lostboy | November 16, 2007 4:25 PM

"Rendering" always reminds me of slaughterhouses. I am sure I could think of some clever thing to say, but I would rather go drink beer.

Posted by tiptoe tommy | November 16, 2007 4:26 PM

I find the sculpture park to be a creepy urban space, empty, silent, and tangibly evil.

Bring back the Shakey's!

Posted by NapoleonXIV | November 16, 2007 4:31 PM

Yay for apartments, boo to Martin Selig.

Posted by Greg | November 16, 2007 4:31 PM

Dr. Awesome @ 8 is dead on about the creepy parking garage. I tacked a photo of the inside to the bottom of the post.

Posted by Dominic Holden | November 16, 2007 4:41 PM

I feel like I've seen that apartment building before....

Oh, and everyone cheering for the new apartments? You'll never be able to afford them.

Posted by joykiller | November 16, 2007 5:35 PM

This is the third time Martin has made this proposal. I expect Belltowners will reject it again.
It might be nice for the lucky few who get to live in these units but, it will be a sore thumb breaking up the viewlines of the waterfront.
Mr. Selig should try drawing inside the lines of the zoning codes.

Posted by Zander | November 16, 2007 5:44 PM

@14 is correct. on both counts.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 16, 2007 5:48 PM

the concrete box isn't the eyesore, that abortion staight out of [houston] is the problem.

the new apartments look awful, especially compared to their [ruffcorn mott's] tower going up @ 5th and madison.

however i'm intrigued by selig's third + battery project (also by ruffcorn mott)

seems selig's got a go-to architect.

doesn't the idx tower have jamie carpenter art on the canopy?

Posted by holz | November 16, 2007 7:15 PM

I'm not going to call the ex-Airborne Express HQ imaginative or anything else, but I do think it fits well into the urban context where it's placed. Just to the north of it is a brick-faced office building that went up a few years after Air-Ex that creates a clever negative space by mirroring the curve of Air-Ex with its balconies.

An in many ways, the building's roundness with that odd jog reinforces Wave's curves.

It's not a great-looking building, but it's always been a good-looking building and now -- decades after it was built -- contributes visual interest to Wave. Part of that interest arises from the contrast between the sterile, clean, and unnatural curve of the building with undulating, rusted, and somehow more natural curves of Wave.

Posted by Robinev | November 16, 2007 7:52 PM

Martin Selig and Sam Israel are two Jews who have done more for Seattle real estate and downtown planning that anyone else. As a Jew I love the Columbia Center tower. It's sleek and modern and rises high above the pathetic "Old Seattle buildings".

If it wasn't for the Jewish landowners in downtown Seattle, this town would be even more backwards. I miss Manhattan and anytime they can tear down old Seattle buildings and put up more apartments, that's progress towards a dense, sustainable city.

Posted by Issur | November 17, 2007 11:43 AM

so what does the ugly one story building look like from the outside?

Posted by stranger to seattle | November 17, 2007 11:52 AM

Stranger to Seattle, it's in the photo at the beginning of the post... the white building right behind the sculpture.

Posted by slurk | November 17, 2007 12:26 PM

The flat parking garage is ugly but easily ignored. What attracts the eye in the photo is the contract of the Wave sculpture and the round building behind the garage. The proposed apartment building, though? Impossible to ignore and way uglier of a backdrop for the Sculpture Park.

But it's apartments, not condos, so I guess I'll add a half-hearted yay, or at least a "well, at least it's not condos" to the fray. Even though I agree the apts will be out of price range for the unwealthy.

Posted by genevieve | November 17, 2007 2:18 PM

I used to have a monthly parking permit in that garage. I lovingly referred to it as "The Rape Barn." I danced a jig on my final day of parking in there. I can't believe I survived.

Posted by NoName McGee | November 17, 2007 5:17 PM

There's a parking garage that's right behind the Frye Hotel down in Pioneer Square that is Ooodles more creepy than that.

Although I will give this garage points for the stuff that's oozing down down the post on the left side. Do you suppose that's blood from a body that was left there?

Posted by catalina vel-duray | November 18, 2007 9:49 PM

Catalina: Is that the garage that is where one parks when staying at the Best Western Pioneer Square?

Posted by Dr_Awesome | November 18, 2007 10:44 PM

Why, I don't know, Doctor. I only know it from my former employer (the pointless internet enterprise) that's where we had employee parking, even though it was a good six blocks away.

That was during the time that the Frye had its little defenestration problem, which has since been resolved.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | November 18, 2007 10:55 PM

Oh, that concrete rectangle is a building? I thought it was a retaining wall or a backdrop for the sculpture garden or something.

Posted by stranger in seattle | November 18, 2007 10:56 PM

There is a really cool feature though: Just to the left in the first picture, down on Western Avenue (I think) there's a break in the massive concrete retaining wall which leads to a concrete stairway. Tight and claustrophobic, surrounded by very tall walls, the stairway twists its way up to a tiny, inscrutably landscaped plaza between the garage and the round building.

The walls surrounding the stairway are so tall one can't see anything, just a narrow slit of sky. It's almost like a tunnel. Spooky as hell.

Why is it there? Who goes from the garage or the building down to that empty stretch of Western?

Posted by Dr_Awesome | November 19, 2007 6:02 AM

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