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Construction has begun on the Ariel Suite Apartments, a 22-story downtown development in the parking lot of the U.S. Bank (formerly San Diego National Bank) building at the corner of Kettner and Beech.

An artist's rendering of the tower indicates it will at least partially obscure the public view of San Diego Migration, a 160´-by-60´ mural on the side of the banking offices.

The artwork was dedicated in 1994 as the 64th installment by the artist Wyland in a 27-year quest to place 100 sealife murals (dubbed “Whaling Walls”), which was completed in 2008.

According to the Wyland Foundation website, 87 murals still exist unmolested in various locations across the globe, including installations at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and inside the Plunge indoor pool building at Mission Beach. Two of the 13 “extinct” murals were also formerly located in San Diego County.

U.S. Bank acquired the parent of San Diego National Bank in October 2009 and announced in April 2010 that it would purchase San Diego National’s former downtown headquarters from federal regulators "to preserve the iconic Wyland whale mural on the side of the building," according to a 2010 San Diego Daily Transcript article.

“This is wonderful news for the community,” U.S. Bank regional chairman Robert Horsman told the paper.

Five months later, the bank sold the adjacent parking lot — which provided the open space that makes the mural visible — to Ariel Suites LP, a Las Vegas–based developer. Last December, Ariel obtained a $30 million loan from Bank of the West and recently broke ground on the project.

The 269-foot-high tower will consist of 224 one- and two-bedroom apartments and 17,300 square feet of commercial space. An artist’s rendering on the Centre City Development Corporation website appears to show a portion of the mural re-created on the building’s lower stories. Construction is expected to be complete in October 2013, according to a sign posted at the construction site.

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