The Showbox in Seattle has earned a following during its almost 80 years as a concert venue. Since 1939, musicians and fans of all stripes have sung, danced, and celebrated music there. Seattle’s music scene has embraced this squat, 1939 building across the street from Pike Place Market, and now that scene is taking up keyboards and phones to defend it. Because unless something changes, The Showbox will be demolished and replaced with a $100 million, 44-story apartment building.
The Onni Group, a Vancouver, BC-based developer, filed plans at the end of July to replace The Showbox with 442 high-end residential units. Financially, this is a profitable move. Legally, it’s just fine. But this development would destroy a key part of Seattle’s infamous music scene, and Onni’s plan sent shockwaves throughout the country. The move to demolish The Showbox sparked a nation-wide scramble to preserve the music venue, as well as a city-wide discussion about the nature of Seattle’s growth.
More than 91,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the venue to be granted landmark status. Historic Seattle, Vanishing Seattle, and Friends of Historic Belltown have formed a coalition to preserve the space by pressuring the city to designate it a historic landmark. City Councilmember Khama Sawant has thrown her weight behind this measure, as well, and the rest of the city council and mayor Jenny Durkan are now involved, too.
While the city explores options, Historic Seattle’s #SaveTheShowbox movement is growing. It found champions in several high-profile musicians with roots in the Seattle area: Ben Gibbered of Death Cab for Cutie, Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and Pearl Jam. More than 150 other artists have signed on as well, representing the diverse range of music that has found a home in this venue. Brandi Carlile, Dave Matthews, Fleet Foxes, Katy Perry, MxPx, Sir Mix-a-Lot, The National, Vince Staples, and dozens of others have joined the movement to defend the space. This group signed a letter in the centerfold of Friday’s Seattle Times that read:
For nearly 80 years, The Showbox has been home to some of Seattle’s biggest cultural moments, from Duke Ellington to Buffalo Springfield, The Police, The Ramones, James Brown, Heart, Ellen DeGeneres, Eminem, Soundgarden, Coldplay, Robin Williams, Chris Stapleton, Prince, and beyond. Despite this venue’s iconic status, it is under threat. The Onni Group, a BC-based developer, plans to tear down The Showbox, to build a 44-story luxury residential tower in its place. We cannot let this happen.
“I would find it incredibly tragic if one of our great cathedrals was destroyed in the name of developing housing for high-income people,” Ben Gibbard told KIRO 7. “This is the line in the sand. If we can’t save the Showbox, what kind of city are we building?”
Many others have asked that same question. How should Seattle grow? How highly do we prioritize money? What about nostalgia? The residential units that would replace The Showbox won’t become low-income, or even middle-income housing options—this controversy pits luxury housing against local history.
In our own business, we value relationships, experience, and community above all else. Money matters, of course, and it lets people do great things for others—but money is far from our top priority. Extending our Real Estate Gals values beyond our own business, we stand with #SaveTheShowbox. This is local community at its best. This is Seattleites of all sorts—not just the rich—banding together to defend what we love.
The future of The Showbox is up in the air. Even if the rest of the city council joins Sawant in her attempt to designate The Showbox a historic landmark, lawsuits and public hearings loom on the horizon. To add your voice to those defending this piece of historic, local Seattle, you can: