Effort to save Showbox gains momentum

SEATTLE — The effort to save the Showbox, a mainstay of the Seattle music scene, gained new momentum Thursday as Historic Seattle, along with a few other local nonprofits, announced they had submitted a landmark nomination for the venue to stop it from being demolished.

"Treated this as an emergency, working around the clock to turn a research and writing process, that can sometimes take months, into 10 days,” said Eugenia Woo with Historic Seattle, who said winning landmark status does not guarantee The Showbox would continue to be used as a music venue.

KIRO 7’s Michael Spears asked, "Is there any measure that will protect the use of this?"

"Another buyer who gets The Showbox and loves The Showbox,” said Woo.

And on Wednesday, Seattle City Council members advanced a plan to provide the property with protections similar to those at Pike Place Market across the street.

A City Council committee passed an ordinance to extend the boundaries of the market's historic district to include only the Showbox property.

The larger boundary for the historic district, if approved by the full City Council, would expire after 10 months if it isn't made permanent.

The Onni Group, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, has filed paperwork with the city for plans to demolish the Showbox and replace it with a 44-story tower.

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The idea of a wrecking crew coming for the Showbox has galvanized members of Seattle's music community.

Seattle resident Ben Gibbard, of Death Cab for Cutie, told KIRO 7, "I would find it incredibly tragic if one of our great cathedrals was destroyed in the name of developing housing for high-income people."

Gibbard said the Showbox is known throughout the music world as a first-rate place to play.

"Whenever I go to the Showbox, it feels like you're seeing something special," Gibbard said.

Gibbard pointed to development in Seattle and said, "This is the line in the sand. If we can't save the Showbox, what kind of city are we building?"

An early version of the plan to extend the Pike Place Market's historic district, from Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, included several properties on the east side of First Avenue.

Historic districts have many more rules, which concerned property owners.

Martha Barkman, of Mack Real Estate, said she supported the effort to save the Showbox, but told the City Council, "We plead not to add one more process we have to go through if we want to change the paint color on the building."

All but two City Council members attended the committee meeting discussion on Wednesday, and all in attendance expressed interest in saving the Showbox.

The full City Council will be briefed on the Showbox on Monday, but it is looking less likely that members will feel the need for a quick vote.

They found out Wednesday that the proposed tower on the Showbox site is vested on Oct. 18, which means they have until then to make any changes to city code to save the venue.

More than 91,000 people have signed a Change.org petition by Jay Middleton to make the Showbox a landmark.

“I had no idea that it was going to blow up like this,” said Jay Middleton, who spoke during Thursday’s news conference at The Showbox.

Historic Seattle said it could take months for a decision on whether the Showbox wins landmark designation – a process that includes public hearings.

"It's not just about hope,” said Woo. “It's about strategy and it's a bit of chess game."