As the fate of the Showbox remains uncertain, it appears another one of the city’s long-running music venues is facing demolition.
According to a notice on the city of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods website, plans for two mixed-use towers are headed for the South Lake Union site currently home to El Corazón, a scruffy metal and punk venue with a deep history in the Seattle music scene. In its grunge-era heyday, the club was known as the Off Ramp and hosted the earliest Pearl Jam show, in October 1990, when the band was called Mookie Blaylock.
The plans from Canadian developer Arbutus Properties call for two residential towers built atop a podium that will potentially include office, retail and restaurant spaces. The upside for music fans is that El Corazón, and its adjacent Funhouse bar, has apparently struck a deal to reopen in the new development, according to the notice.
Back in February, the Seattle P-I reported the filing of a demolition permit application to raze the longtime club, though at the time, El Corazón owner Dana Sims told the Stranger he had no plans to do so. Nevertheless, Arbutus’ project — which would occupy several parcels near Eastlake Avenue East and Denny Way just south of REI — appears to be moving forward.
On Friday afternoon, Sims confirmed in an email that El Corazón and the Funhouse will continue operating in their current locations for at least another 2½ to three years, if not more. Once construction begins, Sims plans to relocate to another location until the new facility is completed. The venues will have approximately the same capacity in the new building as they currently do — 800 people in El Corazón, plus an additional 200 on the Funhouse side. The original Funhouse served as a beloved punk and metal haven near Seattle Center from 2003 to 2012, before it reopened in the side room of El Corazón in 2015.
“This [is] about the best outcome one could hope for two storied clubs who operate in a building that is nearly 120 years old and in need of substantial improvements!” Sims wrote.
Sims said that he will retain his ownership stake in the land and building, and has “entered into a joint venture agreement” in order to keep the clubs in the new development.
Sims also said he plans to retain the clubs’ names and heavy metal and punk identity after reopening in the new development.
Given the development boom around South Lake Union, it’s no wonder developers would target the El Corazón site. A little rough around the edges, the 120-year-old building has that moshed-in feel that makes Oly-swilling metalheads feel at home on a Saturday night, but sits on a desirable chunk of real estate valued at $5.3 million, according to the King County Assessor.
The club has gone through various incarnations over the years, previously known as Graceland, Sub-Zero and other names in addition to the Off Ramp. The old Off Ramp sign is currently on display at the Pearl Jam Home and Away exhibit at MoPOP. According to El Corazón’s website, Sims has operated the club since 2005.