Today Mayor Jenny Durkan signed the “Save the Showbox” ordinance into law, adding the site of the music venue to the Pike Place Market Historical District for the next ten months.
As I’ve written previously, this gives a temporary reprieve to the Showbox by requiring all ownership and use changes, as well as any construction work, to be approved by the Pike Place Market Historical Commission.
Durkan attached a signing statement to the ordinance, which acknowledges the outcry of support for preserving the Showbox and calls it a “community anchor.” “Some places just capture who we are and what we want to preserve as we grow.”
At the same time, Durkan criticizes the Council for rushing through the ordinance despite the cooperation among numerous stakeholders — including Onni Development — to delay the proposed project’s vesting until mid-October.
As you know, City departments have been working with many stakeholders to set a mid-October timeline in order to allow Council an additional two months to weigh potential next steps. The accelerated action by Council cut short the due diligence and engagement of key neighbors, workers, businesses, preservationists, and others at Pike Place Market. This sort of engagement and discussion should inform any legislative action.
Saving the Showbox will take a concerted effort from City leaders, businesses, arts advocates, neighborhood leaders, historic preservationists, and music lovers. This is best served by a thoughtful process that would involve all key stakeholders and consider the various pros and cons of proposed actions – including alternatives that could retain a music venue while generating much needed funding for affordable housing, or engaging with the music community to purchase the building.
As important, Seattle is facing an affordability crisis, and we must explore ways to invest in affordable housing while preserving the places at the heart of Seattle’s culture and character. We need to ensure this action does not preclude some alternatives to keeping a music venue at the Showbox site and that it does not fail to ultimately save the Showbox.
Durkan also makes clear that she is not ready to reject the notion of tearing down the existing building a replacing it with an apartment tower that contains a new home for the Showbox on its ground floor, despite forceful assertions from some members of the community that the existing facility must be kept intact. The current home of the Showbox is on the city’s list of buildings with unreinforced masonry that could be hazardous during a seismic event.
Yet the mayor ends on a positive note:
Ultimately, our goals are all the same: to save the Showbox. Truly saving the Showbox involves considering all options and tools at our disposal. I will direct leaders of City departments to work with all parties involved on an inclusive exploration of opportunities over the coming ten months. Also, we must embrace growth, make it work for the city, and provide more affordable housing everywhere in the city. These goals are not incompatible – if we use a thoughtful approach.
That said, the ordinance the Mayor signed into law today still requires a study over the next ten months as to whether the Showbox site should be permanently added to the Pike Place Market Historical District. That work will need to be done by the market’s Historical Commission — the same group that also needs to develop a whole new set of rules for evaluating proposed changes in ownership, use and construction on the Showbox site now that it is officially part of the Historical District. Neither work item has been funded by the City Council, and currently the Commission is below its full complement of members because the City Council and Mayor have dragged their feet on appointing additional commissioners.