Dori: Seattle musicians, not the city, should save The Showbox

Aug 9, 2018, 10:00 PM


Ladytron performs at The Showbox. (Neil Sanchala, Flickr)

You know I don’t take opinions just because other people have those opinions, even if the other people are friends of mine. And the more I see the process of what is happening right now with The Showbox, it’s a much bigger issue than just this one little building. This is an issue of government and property rights, and overstepping bounds by politicians. So even though my musician friends may not agree with my take on this, I’ve got to lay it out.

The Showbox is a historic place where everyone from Jazz-era greats to today’s music acts have played. It has a tremendous historical legacy. However, about a decade ago, the City of Seattle did a review of the theater and decided that it didn’t have any major historical impact. They put it on the same level as the Car Toys building that was torn down on Denny a few months ago. That was the ruling by the city. Now this Canadian developer comes in and buys The Showbox with the intent of tearing it down to build a 44-story office tower. Since then, the musical community has risen up to save the venue.

RELATED: Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan wants to save the Showbox

I get that. I am all for saving The Showbox. But there is only one right way to do it. And that is to give this Canadian developer fair market value for the property. And that is tens of millions of dollars.

What’s going on right now is what looks, to me, to be government trying to steal property for the sake of being popular with the music community. Councilmember Kshama Sawant wants to redraw the Pike Place Market Historic District to include The Showbox, so that it cannot be touched. This is government stealing tens of millions of dollars from the owner of that property, but it’s also the government stealing hundreds of millions from you.

The building is projected to have about 400 units. For those 400 units, you’re looking at at least an average of $15,000 per unit per year in property taxes. Over the next 30 years, with the appreciation of the real estate and the hiking of the property tax rates, that building would throw off at least a quarter-billion dollars in tax money. That’s money that is being taken from taxpayers if they just do a little jut-out with their borders.

All I’m saying is, if the music community wants to save The Showbox, they’ve got to come up with a fair appraisal of what that property is worth to the developer, and then pay the developer that amount.

Believe me, I hate the up-zoning all around this city. I hate the fact that our city has become so crowded, full of indistinguishable skyscrapers, and that the neighborhoods outside of downtown are being torn up, all so they can get more tax revenue. The city is maniacal about up-zoning everywhere and getting more density and collecting as much property tax as they possibly can. But, because a bunch of politicians want to be really popular with the “cool” crowd — the music community — they want to make an exception for this one building. I’m sure a lot of families would have liked to see areas of Ballard and the U-District not get up-zoned, but they don’t have famous musicians behind them.

I have really good memories of seeing fantastic concerts at The Showbox. But nostalgia cannot be a factor in government taking people’s private property.

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