Mayor Jenny Durkan is signaling sympathy for the cause of saving the Showbox but is not ready to support legislation from City Councilmember Kshama Sawant to protect the music hall for at least two years by temporarily expanding the Pike Place Market Historic District.
Mayor Jenny Durkan is sending officials Wednesday to talk with a real-estate developer about the future of the 79-year-old Showbox music hall in downtown Seattle.
But she’s not ready to support legislation introduced Monday by City Councilmember Kshama Sawant to protect the Showbox for at least two years by temporarily expanding the Pike Place Market Historic District to include the site.
Representatives from the mayor’s office, Office of Arts and Culture and Office of Film and Music will meet with reps for the Vancouver, B.C.,-based Onni Group, which filed plans with the city last month to apparently demolish the Showbox and build a 442-unit apartment tower, said Durkan spokeswoman Stephanie Formas.
“There are some places that make Seattle, ‘Seattle,’ ” Durkan wrote Tuesday in an email reply to messages from supporters of a drive to preserve the Showbox.
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“The Showbox at the Market is one of those places. It is a vital and significant part of the Seattle music scene, which I’ve loved for decades.”
The Onni proposal has stirred outrage among lovers of the storied venue, from musicians and fans to employees, while conversations about the best use of the site have brought attention to the tension between growth and history in boomtown Seattle.
More than 90,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the venue to be granted landmark status.
On the site slated for development is a two-story building, erected in 1916, that houses the Showbox along with a pub and a couple other storefronts.
Under Sawant’s legislation expanding the historic district on a trial basis by a half-block to the east and south, Onni’s project would need approval from the Pike Place Market Historical Commission. Unlike the city’s Landmarks Preservation Board, the commission has authority over building use in addition to physical and architectural modifications.
Sawant initially sought an immediate vote, warning the tower project could soon reach a key benchmark in the permitting process. Her colleagues instead sent the legislation to the council’s Finance and Neighborhoods Committee for review.
Besides the Showbox site, the legislation would expand the historic district to include a variety of other buildings with other businesses, including a hotel and a strip club.
“Mayor Durkan wants to hear from local businesses impacted, especially our small businesses, community members, and stakeholders at Pike Place Market before moving forward on this legislation,” her spokeswoman said Tuesday.
In her email to Showbox supporters, the mayor signaled sympathy without committing to any particular action.
“Seattle has a long history of rallying behind spaces we love in order to preserve the soul of our community,” she wrote, mentioning Pike Place Market, The Paramount Theatre and The Sanctuary.
The Sanctuary is the new name for the historic First United Methodist Church building on Fifth Avenue, which has been incorporated into a new tower.
“This can be a model for the Showbox community,” Durkan wrote.
“Right now, our city departments … are working directly with both the Showbox and the developers to reach a resolution that preserves the priorities of the community.”
Last week, Onni announced its intention to nominate the Showbox structure for landmark status, a move typically used by developers to speed permitting when a property is likely to be nominated at some point anyway.
Developers can sometimes build above or around landmark structures