Since late July, Seattle has been abuzz a plan to build an apartment building on the current site of beloved music venue the Showbox. As a group of local preservation nonprofits, armed with the support of high-profile local musicians, go the landmark preservation route, a Seattle City Council ordinance, introduced Monday, seeks to loop the building into the same oversight that governs Pike Place Market.
That ordinance passed out of a Seattle City Council committee Wednesday, with a few changes. It’s headed to the full council meeting on Monday for discussion and a possible (but unlikely) vote.
Initially, the ordinance was fast-tracked in case the project vested early—at which point zoning changes wouldn’t affect the project. Earlier this week, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) announced that the project won’t vest until October 18, so council has more time to act than previously thought to consider the implications.
Under the legislation, introduced by City Councilor Kshama Sawant on Monday, the Showbox would be looped into Pike Place Market historic district’s boundary on an interim basis. The appearance of historic districts is regulated by either a specific citizen’s board or the Landmarks Preservation Board—giving them stricter design standards and a tighter rein on new development. The Pike Place Market historic district was originally created in 1971 by an citizen initiative as the market itself was eyed for new development.
While the ordinance originally called for extending the district to the east and south for up to two years—with an option to make the expansion permanent—the current draft of the ordinance headed to the City Council only calls for a 10-month option and only affects the land the Showbox occupies.
The larger boundary initially concerned representatives of the multiple committees that govern Pike Place Market, gathered around the conference table at Wednesday’s committee meeting—largely due to uncertainty around the implications of the passage.
“We’re just wondering if there’s different avenues we can go down,” said Mary Barcarella, executive director of the Pike Place Market PDA, which manages the market’s property.
“We’re just concerned how that will effect the market or historic district. What happens after that? We don’t know,” continued Barcarella. “And that’s what our big concern is.”
Local musicians, notably Death Cab for Cutie frontperson Ben Gibbard, have stepped in the support both Sawant’s ordinance and a community-led effort to landmark the building. In an open letter published as an advertisement in the Seattle Times, a coalition of musicians, led by Gibbard, Duff McKagan of Guns ‘n’ Roses, Macklemore, and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready, lent their support to the landmark effort and Sawant’s ordinance.
“It is not just another venue or stop on the road,” read the letter, provided to Curbed Seattle by the group. “Like The Fillmore (San Francisco), First Avenue (Minneapolis), or the 9:30 Club (Washington, D.C.), The Showbox is one of the only truly unique, historic rooms of its kind left in the country. It must be saved for future generations of music fans and performers.”
The letter is signed by both local and national acts across genres and eras, including A$AP Ferg, Amanda Palmer, Chvrches, the Murder City Devils, Conor Oberst, Neko Case, Phantogram, Social Distortion, TV on the Radio, and even Katy Perry.
This article has been updated to correct a typo.