City gives unanimous nod to Showbox as official city landmark

VIDEO: Save the Showbox rally

The Landmarks Preservation Board unanimously agreed to move forward and get the Showbox Theater designated as an official city landmark.

The vote came Wednesday evening with a standing ovation. There were cheers and whistles from supporters who have been fighting to prevent the venue’s owner from tearing it down to make way for an apartment building.

Among the people who packed the meeting were performers and Showbox workers, including one who read a statement from Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready.

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This comes after a push Tuesday to extend a temporary designation that would make the venue part of the Pike Place Market historic district for another six months.

"It is really like the gem of the music scene in Seattle," said musician Shua Sanchez at a City Hall rally before an evening public hearing.

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Showbox employee Shannon Welles called the venue "an icon in Seattle and an important player in the music ecosystem."

The owners of the property want to build a 44-story residential tower, which matches the zoning set by the city council.

Property owners say redevelopment would generate at least $5 million for affordable housing.
The 1916 building was first used as a market.

It was renovated in 1939 and became the Showbox.

A representative for property owner Roger Forbes declined an interview, but on Tuesday released a history of the building, saying over the years it has changed uses nine times.

Property owners also circulated a 2007 letter from the city's historic preservation officer that said the building had been "so altered that it would not qualify as a Seattle landmark."

"It was based on very little information," responded Eugenia Woo of Historic Seattle, who said only the Landmarks Preservation Board can make that decision.

On Wednesday, her group asked the board to approve the nomination of the Showbox as a landmark.
Now that the board has voted, it will meet again within two months to decide whether to actually designate the building a landmark.

"Landmarking alone won't save the Showbox, we need to find a preservation-minded buyer," Woo said.
A spokesperson for the property owner said he would consider any serious fair-market value offers.

It's unclear what the price would be.

After the city temporarily extended the Pike Place Historic District to include the Showbox, the property owner sued, claiming $40 million in damages.

That case could go to trial later this year.