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Showbox supporters rally as city considers future of iconic music property

Ahead of a Seattle City Council committee meeting to discuss The Showbox, Councilmember Kshama Sawant held a rally in support of preserving the iconic music venue.

Local musicians joined that rally to express why the venue should stay, ahead of a committee meeting to discuss how to stall the sale of The Showbox property a little longer.

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“If you ask musicians in this city what is the greatest theater, what is the best place to see music in this whole city, the vast majority would pick The Showbox,” said Shua Sanchez, a local guitarist. “It is really the gem of the music scene in Seattle.”

Shannon Wells has worked at The Showbox for 17 years.

“It’s part of what defines Seattle as a city of music,” Wells said. “I think it’s essential to the music ecosystem here and it would be a travesty to lose it.”

The Seattle City Council is nearing a key juncture in its efforts to save The Showbox. The council previously hit pause on the situation — a temporary rezone that extended the Pike Place Historical District around The Showbox property. The clock is ticking on that temporary fix. Now city officials say they need more time to find a solution to this issue.

Showbox owner Roger Forbes had initially wanted to sell the property to a Vancouver B.C. based developer. That developer had plans to demolish the building and construct a 44-story building. But locals pushed back in an effort to save the venue which holds a wealth of Seattle music history.

The City Council responded in August 2018 with the temporary historical district designation. But the deadline on that temporary fix will come late July.

Forbes had sued the city for its historical district move, alleging it cost him $40 million in lost value. In late April, reports emerged that city officials and Forbes were close to reaching a temporary legal stay on his $40 million lawsuit. It would have allowed the city another six months to figure out a way to save the venue from demolition.

Now, though, it appears that legal stay may have hit a snag.

“The negotiations about that standstill agreement are at a standstill,” Councilmember Lisa Herbold said in a Monday briefing.

Pike Place Historic District
The expansion of boundaries for the Pike Place Historic District

Tuesday’s special 5:30 p.m. council session includes a presentation from a city analyst, a discussion of the proposed six-month extension, and a possible vote.

Legal experts believe Seattle council’s Showbox zoning on shaky ground

Ahead of Tuesday’s hearing, a handful of community groups — including Historic Seattle, Friends of Historic Belltown, Friends of the Market, and more — issued a letter to Seattle city leaders, urging them to pass the extension.

“We look around and we witness a Seattle that seems at a critical crossroads,” the letter reads. “If given the time, we believe we can identify and refine real-world strategies for preserving and expanding the cultural capital of Seattle’s internationally-recognized heart.”

On Wednesday, Seattle’s Landmark Preservation Board will weigh a separate measure, that would officially designate the Showbox a city landmark. That would represent a more permanent victory for the “Save the Showbox” campaign, requiring that the venue be preserved as is.

On June 4 at 5:30 p.m., the City Council’s Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee will also hold a public hearing about the proposed extension.

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