The Seattle City Council voted 8-1 on Monday to extend the temporary expansion of the Pike Place Market Historical District to cover the Showbox nightclub.
The fate of the beloved music venue has been the heart of a polarizing local debate: do we save this building at the cost of a denser downtown? Councilmember Abel Pacheco, who took over Rob Johnson's District 4 seat last month, was the sole no vote.
The intention to develop a 44-story apartment building on the Showbox's lot drew the attention of Councilmember Kshama Sawant last July. Since then, the debate has waged on—to Save the Showbox or not to Save the Showbox? And, if we do Save the Showbox, how the fuck are we going to do it?
One of the solutions, which came to fruition last week, was to designate the building as a landmark. The city’s Landmarks Preservation Board unanimously voted Wednesday to nominate the Showbox for landmark status. But without the council's temporary extension of the Pike Place Market Historical District, the Showbox as we know it could have been lost since a landmark designation will only save the physical building, not the building's function.
Being in a historic district? That's the answer. Inside a historic district, the building's use will be regulated by a public board. Last August, the city council protected the venue with a 10-month temporary inclusion in the district. Today's vote by the council extends that temporary protection by an additional six months.
The Department of Neighborhoods is overseeing a study of the historic expansion and will ultimately determine whether the Showbox gets permanently included in the Pike Place Market district and its protections. That study was supposed to be finished in March. It's now projected to be completed at the end of June, Councilmember Lisa Herbold said in the meeting.
Sawant warned that we must "keep pressure on city departments who report to the mayor's office" and to "make sure that those studies are completed."
Pacheco, the only no vote, was acting on "his conscience," said City Council President Bruce Harrell.
"I do not believe that this tool—expansion of the Pike Place Market Historical District—is the right way to go about preserving the Showbox," Pacheco explained. "When we use a blunt instrument like a historic district as our tool, we are making housing the enemy."
Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez echoed this sentiment. She stated that she was voting yes on this temporary extension but that she is not certain her yes vote will be guaranteed when the final vote is made. Her concern centers around the possibility that expanding historic designations could limit "development capacity."
Bottom line: For another six months, the Showbox is saved but the fight is far from over. It's also fucking messy. The city is currently embroiled in a legal fight with the property owner, Roger Forbes. Additionally, Forbes, as Erica C. Barnett from The C is for Crank originally reported last week, has notified AEG, the company that runs the venue, that their lease will not be renewed.