When I saw this:



I couldn't help thinking of this:



The top rendering is Martin Selig's proposed seven-story office building at the highly prominent site at the north end of Olympic Sculpture Park. The lower rendering is Foster + Partners' design for a 43-story office/residential tower in the old Public Safety Building site at Third and Cherry, in front of City Hall.

A uncanny resemblance, no doubt. But the bigger story here is why Selig's project ended up in that form at all.

The original proposal was for the 14-story apartment building shown in the rendering below. But homeowners associations at nearby condo buildings successfully appealed the project, arguing that the building was too big and would block views from the park. The park's owner---the Seattle Art Museum---was not involved in the appeal.



In short, the original project was killed by NIMBYism. And the likely outcome---office space instead of housing---goes against Seattle's strategy to bring more residents to downtown. There is no better place for high-density housing in a city than adjacent to open spaces like the Sculpture Park and Myrtle Edwards Park.

I find it both surprising and disappointing that the Design Review Hearings Examiner ruled against a downtown housing project that was previously approved by the Design Review Board, and have to wonder if Martin Selig's controversial history as a Seattle developer was a factor. Selig's legacy project is Columbia Center, the big black skyscraper that people love to hate.

Equally curious is Selig's decision to switch from housing to office, given that the project will need a departure to go to the proposed 91-foot building height, not to mention the current office glut in Seattle.

T0 me, this story is another demonstration of how Seattle has yet to come to grips with the fact that we can't have it all. If we believe that a dense urban core is a critical ingredient of a sustainable city, then we also have to accept that tall buildings are a necessary part of the equation.

The Early Design Guidance meeting for the project is scheduled for tomorrow night, July 27, 5:30 PM, City Hall Room L280, 600 Fifth Ave.