A Network of Stakeholders
This is a complex issue with many stakeholders…
The following is a breakdown of the stakeholders involved. For effective advocacy, we must know who has power and understand how we are connected. Who owns the Showbox? Roger Forbes owns the land and building. Onni Group, a Canadian developer, was in contract with Forbes to buy it. The Showbox music venue business is owned by AEG Presents, who leases the building from Forbes. Update: Onni Group terminated the contract to buy the building, date unknown.
The City of Seattle has legal jurisdiction over zoning and construction permitting. The City Council passed an ordinance in August 2018 to temporarily extend the boundary of the Pike Place Market Historic District to include the Showbox, which sits directly across the street from the Market.
In June 2019, King County Judge Oishi voided the ordinance for spot zoning. In July 2019, the Mayor’s Office suspended its study of a potential permanent Pike Place Market expansion. We continue to advocate for a thorough study of a potential permanent expansion that may include other properties.
Contacts for city government are linked through our Take Action page.
Historic Preservation is a complex process and does not always guarantee a beloved building will be saved. The Historic Landmark Preservation Board is part of the Dept. of Neighborhoods. The Board reviews nominations in a public hearing and votes on whether to nominate as a landmark. If yes, there is a second hearing on whether to designate the site as a landmark. If yes, the city enters into negotiations with the building’s owner, a process called controls and incentives. Landmark legislation then moves to a City Council vote. Landmark status does not preserve the use of the building and often does not save the building itself if the owner claims they cannot realize a reasonable return on their property.
In the Showbox case, Historic Seattle, Friends of Historic Belltown, and Vanishing Seattle jointly submitted a nomination application for Historic Landmark designation for cultural significance and interior architectural significance. Contrary to some inaccurate news reports, the Showbox has not previously been denied Landmark status and is fully eligible to be nominated.
The Pike Place Market Historic District is a separate distinction and is the strongest approach to preserving the use of the space as a music venue. If the Showbox becomes part of the Historic District permanently, all changes of structure and use will have to be approved by the Pike Place Market Historic Commission.
Update: On June 5th, the Landmarks Preservation Board unanimously voted to nominate the Showbox as an historic landmark. On July 17th, the Landmarks Preservation Board unanimously voted to designate the interior and exterior of the Showbox as a City Landmark!!! We now await the City’s controls process with the owner to see what restrictions are placed on the property. Despite this momentous achievement, the venue is not saved. Landmark does not control the use of a space. We need a preservation-friendly buyer (like Historic Seattle) to acquire the property.
Learn more about Seattle’s Historic Landmark process here.
Learn more about the Pike Place Market Historic District here.
The Showbox community is large and vocal. The outpouring of love for the Showbox and the outrage over its possible demolition are the ONLY reasons we have temporarily stopped the redevelopment. Currently, over 118,000 people have signed a petition to preserve the historic Showbox theater. Hundreds of people have shown up to City Council hearings to protest demolition and demand that we Save Our Showbox!
Visit our community page to learn more.