Developer may abandon Showbox redevelopment

The prospective Showbox site developer, the Onni Group from Vancouver B.C., now appears likely to pull out of the deal to purchase and develop the downtown property following Monday’s Seattle City Council vote to tightly restrict the property by extending Pike Market’s boundaries.

The company had entered into a contract to purchase and develop the First Avenue music venue across the street from the market. But the commercial contract, similar to the escrow process in purchasing a residential property, allows for the group to abandon the process and cancel the purchase should major obstacles arrive.

The council vote to extend the Pike Market boundaries and building restrictions makes that withdrawal much more likely, sources said.

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On Monday, the city council voted unanimously to expand the Pike Place Market Historical District to include the Showbox. The Onni Group had filed plans to demolish the music venue and turn it into a 44-story apartment tower.

But the backlash was immediate.  From Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine to the city council and prominent local musicians, the protest about losing one of Seattle’s oldest and best-loved music venues was significant including a Change.org online petition signed by more than 93,000 people. While Historic Seattle and Vanishing Seattle led the effort to get the building declared a historic landmark, the city council developed and voted on a plan to extend the Pike Market Historic zone to include the building.

The council legislation includes the Showbox in the historical district for a minimum of 10 months and up to two years. City staff will use those two years to study whether to make the move a permanent one. If Onni pulls out of deal, the property in the short term would remain under the tight restrictions of the market historic district which controls both a building’s structure and its use — a much more restricted status than a historic landmark designation.

Onni representatives couldn’t be reached for comment.

The Showbox was founded in 1939 and largely has remained a performance hall since. The business — not the building — has been owned by AEG Live since 2007.

RELATED: Seattle council approves plan to save The Showbox