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Seattle nonprofit offers to buy Showbox in effort to save venue

Fliers for the Save the Showbox campaign. (KIRO Radio, Mike Lewis)

As the debate surrounding efforts to save the Showbox Market from demolition continues, a local nonprofit has offered to buy the iconic venue outright in hopes of preserving it for “decades to come.”

City, Showbox owner close to agreement on legal extension

Last week, representatives with Historic Seattle submitted a letter to the Showbox property’s owner, Roger Forbes, expressing interest in purchasing the venue.

“A building like that deserves to be saved,” Historic Seattle Executive Director Kji Kelly told MyNorthwest. “We feel like this in an opportunity to continue to invest in a property and save it for future generations.”

Exact dollar figures have yet to be brought up, but the organization did express interest in “sitting down and negotiating” with Forbes to come to a mutually beneficial arrangement. The Showbox is set to be considered for landmark status on June 5 — part of Historic Seattle’s offer includes agreeing to “pause the nomination if that’s a concern for the owner.”

Forbes has yet to respond directly to the proposal, but a spokesperson for his company did tell The Stranger that he “has and will always consider any serious purchaser that offers fair market value for the property,” and that he “would be happy to consider their offer if it contained an acceptable price and verifiable funding source.”

The saga that has gotten us to this point has been contentious.

Shortly after Forbes announced his intention to demolish the Showbox to construct a 44-story apartment building, Seattle council members unanimously voted to expand the Pike Place Market Historical District to include the venue.

This led to a lawsuit from Forbes, who sued for $40 million in lost value due to the rezoning. As of late-April, Forbes and city officials were close to an agreement for a temporary legal stay, effectively giving the city another six months to save the Showbox.

Following the six-month extension given by the legal stay (added to the original 10-month preservation), both parties involved have been able to explore other options for the Showbox building, including finding a buyer who would preserve the space and maintain it as a music venue.

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Historic Seattle hopes to be that buyer.

“We have a track record and a history of doing great projects that add value to this city,” Kelly described.

The nonprofit has managed to preserve and maintain several venues across Seattle, including First Hill’s recently-reopened Town Hall, and the $1.5 million purchase of Washington Hall.

Meanwhile, almost 120,000 people have signed a petition to save the Showbox.

“I think this has struck a chord with the city, the people of Seattle,” said Kelly. “It’s important for a lot of different reasons for a lot of different people.”

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