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Effort to save The Showbox alive after crucial committee vote

The Murder City Devils perform at The Showbox in Seattle in 2014. (Dyer Oxley, MyNorthwest)

UPDATE: The plan to give supporters more time to save The Showbox by temporarily extending the boundaries of the Pike Place Market Historic District advanced through a council committee Wednesday afternoon.

Now it’s up to the full council to approve the ordinance.

If the temporary boundary extension got held up in committee , it’s unlikely supporters of The Showbox would be able to prevent a developer from replacing it with an apartment building, according to Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant.

In an email to supporters, Councilmember Sawant said that if an ordinance to expand the Pike Place Market Historic District to include the music venue isn’t passed to full council, “we won’t be able to beat Onni [the developer] to the buzzer.”

She continued: “meaning they could get their way, and ultimately tear down this historic music venue. We need to keep up the pressure.”

The council meets one last time on Monday, Aug. 13, before going on summer recess. Councilmembers will at least be briefed on the status of The Showbox, but may not vote on the protective ordinance. They have until mid-October to make changes to city code — the site is vested on Oct. 18.

Onni, a Vancouver B.C.-based developer, submitted a permit application to demolish The Showbox and construct a 44-story building at the site. It received almost immediate pushback from many fans of the 79-year-old music venue.

Onni said it intends to nominate the building for landmark status. However, some, including Sawant, are wary of the developer.

“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.”

A temporary boundary extension for the Pike Place Historic District would give the public more time to weigh in on saving the venue. The district currently stretches from SR 99 to First Avenue, and just past Pike Street north to Virginia Street.

The Showbox is located on the other side of First Avenue, just outside the current district boundaries.

The ordinance passed through committee would only impact The Showbox.

Even if The Showbox receives landmark status, it would not preserve its current use — Sawant has said she is researching ways to do that.

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