The city of Seattle and Showbox ownership reached an agreement Tuesday that aims to close a lawsuit over the recently landmarked music venue and sets a timeline for deciding its fate.
Back in June, Judge Patrick Oishi struck down a City Council ordinance that temporarily placed the Showbox within the Pike Place Market Historical District and effectively blocked a deal to sell the property to a developer. The developer, Onni Group, planned to erect a 44-story tower on the site, but backed out after the council’s move. When Oishi overturned the ordinance, he did not rule on the damages of around $40 million Showbox ownership sought as a result of the terminated deal.
Under the settlement, the city will pay the owner $915,000 in legal fees and other costs, and both parties will ask Oishi to submit his final ruling in the case overturning the historical-district ordinances. Neither party will appeal the ruling or admit any liability, according to a news release from the Seattle City Attorney’s office.
As part of the deal, Showbox owner Roger Forbes grants the city “the exclusive and freely assignable first right and option” to buy the property and “Showbox” name for $41.4 million. The city has until March 1, 2020, to identify a would-be buyer who would then have 30 days to reach a purchase agreement. The deal is also contingent upon the Landmarks Preservation Board and City Council placing no controls — the specific restrictions that would actually protect elements of the venue, such as the marquee — on the property. So, if a buyer never materializes or is unable to reach a purchase agreement, the settlement could be terminated and an unprotected Showbox could potentially hit the market.
The autonomous preservation board, which recommended landmarking the venue this summer, is under no legal obligation to comply with the settlement terms and could recommend controls as it sees fit.
“The focus of this situation is now appropriately with the Landmarks Preservation Board,” Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said in a statement. “I weighed the likelihood of success appealing a case that is now largely superfluous against a potential judgment costing the City tens of millions of dollars. When presented with a resolution that costs us only a fraction of that potential judgment and that retains an option for a third-party organization like Historic Seattle to lead an effort to purchase the building in the event no landmark controls are imposed, this wasn’t a difficult decision to make.”
Historic Seattle, one of the preservation groups spearheading the landmark nomination, made a preliminary offer to purchase the Showbox earlier this year though no agreement was reached. One piece Historic Seattle said it needed to begin serious fundraising efforts was a firm price from the owner. This settlement provides a clearer target.
“Our settlement with the City of Seattle allows for a return to a consistent and fair application of the city’s regulations governing 1426 First Avenue,” said Aaron Pickus, spokesperson for Showbox ownership, in a statement. “We are also pleased that our settlement … includes a contingent option for a third-party allied with the City to potentially purchase the property for $41.4 million — the owner has always been open to consider any serious purchaser that offers fair market-value.”