Kshama Sawant to draft resolution to protect The Showbox
Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant jumped into the fight to save The Showbox from demolition, arguing that assurances from the developer to give it landmark status should not be trusted.
“I have heard from many of you who are outraged to learn that a real estate developer intends to replace Seattle’s historic Showbox theater with a high-rise apartment building,” Sawant said in a statement Monday. “This is yet another example of how development and construction decisions in Seattle are being driven primarily by whatever will make the quickest dollar for the largest for-profit developers, with little regard for the needs and desires of the rest of us.”
“Often, it is affordable housing that we see demolished to make way for new luxury buildings that only the wealthy get to live in,” she said. “In this case, it is a landmark of Seattle’s history and music that is on the chopping block. In both cases, Seattle is more and more becoming a playground for the rich, with little space for working people and for the culture that makes Seattle so unique.”
Sawant is preparing a resolution for the council to consider on Aug. 6. It will promote that The Showbox be preserved in its entirety — inside and out.
Vancouver B.C.-based developer Onni Group submitted a permit application to construct a 44-story apartment building on the site of The Showbox. The proposal has not been approved.
In the meantime, Showbox supporters are asking Seattleites to write to the council to ask that the venue is given landmark or historic status to preserve it and thwart plans to tear it down. Other regional leaders have spoken out in their support of preserving the building.
Alongside that effort, Onni Group has announced it will nominate the building for landmark status itself. Many do not trust the developer’s intentions, however. Sawant is among them.
“Big developers have immense power in Washington state, but one possible point of leverage are Seattle’s landmark preservation laws,” Sawant said. “Because The Showbox has so much historic value, the Landmarks Preservation Board should agree to landmark it if they hear from a large enough community of people. However, the board often preserves only the outside of buildings, and in this case we need the Board to also preserve the music venue inside.”
Sawant is also pressing Seattleites to not stop at pressuring city officials to nominate The Showbox as a landmark.
“The Showbox theater should not only be preserved on the outside but also be maintained as a music venue,” Sawant said. “In fact, the Omni Group, the corporation threatening the Showbox, has indicated they plan to nominate the building to the Landmarks Preservation Board. As a mega-development corporation, Onni will no doubt hope that the Board will decide not to preserve any part of the building that will conflict with their multi-million-dollar development plans. We obviously hope, on the other hand, that Board will not just preserve the facade, but enable Seattle’s music community to continue to function at the venue. There are undoubtedly other locations where upscale apartments could be built, although what our city really needs is affordable housing.”