For three years now, the iconic mural featuring whales flying over the desert has been the backdrop of an empty lot at the corner of Campbell and Grant in Midtown.

That empty lot will soon be another Starbucks drive-thru with a large parking lot, meaning a partially blocked view of the whales.

Luckily, the building thats going in is gonna be set off from the wall, so youll still be able to see the entire mural, said Joe Pagac, who painted the 6,000 square foot landmark.

For the mural, I think this is best case scenario. For people who want a local restaurant or something like that, its probably worst case scenario.

Pagac tells KGUN he knew development would pop up here eventually, but its bittersweet.

Its always a bummer to hear that one of your murals is getting covered up for one reason or another, said Pagac. Unfortunately, the best walls are usually right behind an empty lot. And those are also the best places to build. So its always a risk.

The mural was commissioned by Banner Health, which owns the old Catalina Theater building and parking garage just south of the new Starbucks site.

Theyre just not interested in selling right now, Tucson City Council member Steve Kozachik said of Banner. Nobody has had the opportunity to amass that whole corner into what would be a better, higher-density and higher use for the corner.

Kozachik says that opened the door for Starbucks, through GrantCampbell SBUX, LLC, to buy the roughly one acre lot for $1.8 million this summer.

There is already another Starbucks just a half mile north at Campbell and Glenn, and another new one being built at Speedway and Country Club, two miles away.

We probably have four or five different Starbucks going in simultaneously somewhere around Midtown, said Kozachik. Starbucks is expanding. And I guess if they werent selling coffee they wouldnt be doing that, right?

While the business wont be uniquely Tucson, the backdrop still will be.

I see music videos shot in front of it, said Pagac. People do wedding photos and engagement photos in front of it. So, it gets a lot of use by the community. Luckily therell still be a parking lot there that you can stand in and take photos.

The whole reason that I do this job is because it gives back to the community and people love it So thats what keeps you going. You know, knowing that people appreciate it and are gonna love it for years to come.