Showbox supporters mounting opposition to demolition proposal
The Showbox has hosted legendary acts for almost 80 years. Now, owners intend to host hundreds of residents in a 44-story tower that will replace one of Seattle’s most well-known venues.
The Showbox building at 1412 1st Avenue was built in 1916 and is of masonry construction. A day after it celebrated its 79th birthday, a land-use pre-application was filed with the City of Seattle. It states that owners want to tear the building down and replace it with a mixed-use multifamily high-rise tower with roughly 442 units. Retail units are proposed for the ground level and room for 50 bike parking spaces. Five below-surface levels will house 88 parking spaces.
The project is in the application phase and there is no timeline for when the venue will be leveled. According to the Daily Journal of Commerce, Onni Group — based in Vancouver B.C. — filed the plans with the city. Architect Perkins + Will and R.M. Watson Co. are also involved with the project. Onni Group is also developing the old Seattle Times property.
It didn’t take long for Seattle-area music fans to speak out in opposition to the proposal. A “Save The Showbox” Twitter page has been set up. Multiple Facebook groups have also been started to organize efforts to save the venue.
“I’m devastated to learn that there is a plan to demolish Seattle’s legendary and iconic Showbox Theatre,” said King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles. “So much of our history as a community is rooted in the music and musical acts that have come from and have come through Seattle. From Duke Ellington to Pearl Jam to Macklemore, many moments in that theater have been turned into lifelong memories.”
“I am committed to working with the community and stakeholders to find a way to preserve this historical landmark so many more talented artists can continue to perform for generations to come,” she said.
Rob Thomas with AEG Presents, the company which promotes concerts at The Showbox, gave MyNorthwest this statement:
For 79 years, The Showbox has been the heartbeat of the Seattle music community and one of the country’s most historic and influential live music clubs. We intend to continue operations of this legendary venue including all of the shows currently announced on our calendar. We are hopeful of beginning a dialogue with the building’s new owners to preserve The Showbox for decades to come.
Fans started a petition to save The Showbox. The petition states: “This historic music hall that has a rich history of music within it is now the victim to the gentrification of Seattle.” The online effort is aimed at the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board and seeks to make the music venue a historic site. The petition had a goal of 2,500 signers. Within a handful of hours, it exceeded that goal and was extended it to 15,000. That goal was extended again to 35,000 Thursday morning, which it had nearly met before noon.
The Showbox era began in 1939. Since then it has been titled under different variations of “Showbox.” The venue has featured iconic acts such as Muddy Waters, The Ramones, Pearl Jam, Mae West, Snoop Dogg, The Police, Iggy Pop, Devo, Sleater-Kinney, Kanye West, Modest Mouse, Billy Idol, Paul Simon, Ice Cube, Elliott Smith, and many more. The venue has also become part of Seattle’s convention circuit, and has been used for PAX West and Emerald City Comic Con.
The venue is promoting concerts through the end of 2018. Until then, it will host Minus the Bear, Thievery Corporation, Cat Power, The Black Lips, Liz Phair, and MXPX.
If torn down, The Showbox will be survived by Showbox SoDo, another venue owned by the same company in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood.
News of The Showbox’s demise comes nearly one year after it was revealed that Seattle will lose Black Dog Forge, a legendary practice space for local bands such as Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Presidents of the United States of America, among others.