Grassroots effort to save Showbox Theater grows, seeks landmark status

UPDATE: The City of Seattle already declared that the Showbox building "lacks sufficient physical integrity to convey architectural and/or historic significance," and in 2007 gave it the lowest ranking for historic preservation during a 2007 survey of downtown historic buildings.

The survey ranked buildings by categories ranging from one to four. Category four buildings were "identified as ones that have been so altered that they would not qualify as Seattle landmarks."

The Showbox at 1412 First Avenue received a category four classification.

"The original 1916 building was extensively altered when it was adapted to serve as a theater c.1940," the city assessment read. "At the second floor level portions of Streamline Moderne style horizontal grooved cladding placed between narrow horizontal window openings and coping ornament remain in place although the storefront level and the window sash have been extensively altered. The building appears to lacks sufficient physical integrity to convey architectural and/or historic significance."

ORIGINAL TEXT: News of plans to demolish the Showbox Theater across from Pike Place Market in Seattle has sparked a major community backlash.

The Onni Group, of Vancouver B.C., filed plans with the city to tear it down and build a 44-story high-rise apartment building.   As news broke on Wednesday, it sparked a groundswell of opposition.

“The first thing that came to mind was heartbreak,” Jay Middleton told KIRO 7.

Middleton played in a band that had its first-ever concert at the Showbox Theater, and he says the iconic venue must be preserved.

So midday Wednesday, he started this petition:

And hours later it had well over 10,000 names.

“I only expected to get like 100 signatures,” He said.  “And then it started building momentum up.  I was worried, I was anxious, I was like, 'Oh man this is cool, really cool.'"

As of midday Thursday, the petition had over 33,000 signatures to have the building designated as a historic landmark.

The Showbox opened 79 years ago this week across from Pike Place Market, which has landmark status.  The Showbox does not.

Anyone or any group can nominate a building for landmark status. A preservation officer then reviews the nomination. If it's determined adequate, then a public hearing is scheduled with the Landmark Preservation Board.  Here's a link to the breakdown of the full process.

KIRO 7 witnessed people stopping by the Showbox Theater to ask how they can help.  Ryan Schutte, a part-time stage manager there, stopped by to talk to co-workers Thursday.

“It should speak volumes that all the employees here at the Showbox feel strongly enough about the building,” Schutte told KIRO 7.

He and fellow employees have an idea of how to drive home the community’s support in their nomination to the city.

“The best thing the public can do to help us with that process by sharing your stories and memories of the Showbox,” he said.  “And use #SaveShowbox so we can hunt down all that information, put it together and make a better case to the city.”

For landmark status, it would have to pass four public votes, with the Seattle City Council getting the final say.  The building couldn't be demolished during the review.

“What do you expect? Do you think this is enough to get their attention?” KIRO 7 Anchor John Knicely asked Middleton.

“I believe so,” Middleton said.  “I believe so.”

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