Yes, We Should Preserve Our Historic Landmarks. But the Showbox Isn’t One of Them.



Thank god this fucking rando who moved here 2 years ago is here to tell the community what constitutes culturally-relevant spaces.


You've been here 2 years. None of it is yours. Your opinion is irrelevant.


@1 - right? sheesh.

The Showbox may or may not be "historic", but it is AWESOME. Best venue in town.
Do Not Destroy.

Wait.. 2 years... CINCINNATI ?! ... ¡¿¡¡NEW YORK CITY!!?!

... git a rope...

"The Pioneer Square district is a happy exception"
Pioneer Square is doomed. All brick, sitting on liquifactable fill. Spitting distance from a serious fault line. Next major earthquake and P-Square will be rubble.
French kiss it all you want now, for tomorrow may be too late.


If you think a high rise luxury condo box is the solution to our housing crisis, you know even less about this city than this joke of an article leads us to believe.


" Build the new tower, and carve out space for a new and improved Showbox within it."

Riiiight. You are clearly unaware how that actually plays out around here. We've lost more spaces to this "plan" than you apparently know, Cole.


Pro tip, newbie. Nobody outside of New York cares how they do things in New York.


Great article, David. Very pleased to see it published here, where all the staff writers seemed to be on the nostalgia-drenched "do something now, no matter how dumb it is" train.

You can tell someone is losing an argument when they reach for the "but I've lived here longer than you, so I win" manoeuvre, a desperate rhetorical gambit of last resort.


Mob rule, a bunch of babies don't want a dilapidated fire hazard of a building in the heart of downtown turned into what it should become because they saw some cool bands there. This is something Donald Trump would do. Seize private property for their own purposes. And now the City of Seattle is being sued because of YOU. This is sickening.


I am so sick and tired of "you just moved here" so your opinion doesn't matter. "Do you know how LONG I've lived here?" Fking babies


Oh yes, I'm really sure building a cookie cutter highrise on that lot is really going to address affordability. This is what happens when we embrace market-based urbanism: terminal brain damage.


8: Cry me a fucking river.


Good to see that my hometown doesn’t have a monopoly on inbred parochialism. The whole “You’re not from here so you can’t possibly know what you’re talking about” argument is literally the exact same argument made by the Archie Bunker types back in Cincinnati — usually men in their 60s who still wear their high school letter jackets — as if pure osmosis is the only way to gain expertise on a topic.


We should hang new people if they speak out about public concerns until they've lived in Seattle for at least 10 years. And unless they vote for approved candidates they shouldn't be allowed to vote either.

But they need to pay taxes. That way they can have "skin in the game".


11: the problem with the piece isn't because he's new, at least not to me. The problem is he's trotting out some bullshit moral necessity argument about affordability when there isn't a chance in hell this project is going to increase affordability. He needs to show the work.


See the bullshit on this article won't be addressed because everyone has decided to make this about parochialism.


The biggest problem is the idea of a 42 story tower across the street from the entrance to the pike place market. This would be completely out of scale; an atrocity.


@15: Yes, a high-rise in the middle of a major city’s downtown would be completely out of scale among all those other downtown high-rises.


He’s an architect who works in Seattle. Of course he’s in favor of tearing down an old building and building a new one.


@15 I hate to break it to you, but there are already a number of high rises in that area. If anything is "out of scale," it's the Showbox: it's one of the shortest buildings on that block.


Expanding on @18, here's what that block currently looks like:,-122.3397903,3a,75y,67.34h,125.79t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sgnlpdnFbqcKOnqw_Hn_ofA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656


“Congratulations, Seattle. In the face of an unprecedented housing shortage, our elected leadership has voted to preserve a strip club, a t-shirt store, a Starbucks, and several parking lots in perpetuity for future generations.”

While that’s a great recap, it’s a bit too kind. Our City Council didn’t actually vote to preserve The Showbox. It voted to preserve a building which The Showbox leases. If the lease, which runs out at the far distant future date of 2020, is not renewed, then our City Council will have succeeded only in preserving The Building Which Formerly Housed The Showbox.



I'll take "inbred parochialism" over the current popular trend of outbred parochialism - the kind where someone who moved here three months ago feels they have an inalienable right to displace long-term residents simply because the richest person in the history of human civilization decided their willingness to be the ten-thousandth monkey trying to write the Perl-script version of "Hamlet" is worth more than the born-and-raised resident who actually teaches "Hamlet" in school or the child of said life-long resident who makes their Iced, Half Caff, Ristretto, Venti, 4-Pump, Sugar Free, Cinnamon, Dolce Soy Skinny Latte during the day while rehearsing "Hamlet" at night - in a New York second.


the best part of all of this "save the showbox" stuff is getting to watch Shawarma really grandstand, not just half assed.


@1, @3, @5: I’ve been here over twenty-five years, I’ve seen more great shows at The Showbox than I can easily recall, and the sooner that site (and the parking lots near it our City Council also just “preserved”) gets redeveloped into a high-tax-paying high rise, the better. So there, your “argument” just went down in flames. (Too bad, so sad.)

And @17, I have no personal financial interest, now or in future, in such a development.

@21: Feelings of injured entitlement are just the worst, aren’t they? But here’s a tip: yes, you want your resultant whine to be both bitterly nasal and excruciatingly annoying, but you’ve now piled so much resentment into it, only dogs can hear you. So, you might want to tweak it down to human registers. Just sayin’.


I don’t know if I should even comment. This guy, remember the name David Cole, is one of the most ignorant people to ever move here. Truly a stupid article.


I too believe we should tear down buildings I don't care about to build things that I think are better. How very important and well-considered are my opinions. So many of our churches, hospitals and elementary schools are not even that pretty and I never use them anyways.

But wait, someone disagrees with my brilliant unassailable opinion? How could we ever adjudicate such a dispute. If only we had someone a majority of us elected to represent our competing interests and weigh different priorities who could come to some sort of agreement on our behalf. Maybe even a group of them... could there even be such a thing... a "council" of them perhaps?


Great article. Show box is not an architectural gem. Every venue in town has had historic artists play there. I get it, it’s a piece of old Seattle dying, the latest of many. But this is a perversion of the concept of historic preservation.


The debate was over before it started. The crazy thing is some of the council are attorneys and they have a entire legal department which undoubtedly advised the city will lose in court. And, wait for it...the second lawsuit from the Onni Group for contract interference should be here shortly.


David Cole, Seattle’s “Woke Suburbanite”, who moved to a mid-sized town and thinks it’s a city. Then uses his 150 IQ but 25 EQ to sell us his urbanist wet dreams. After all, he visited Amsterdam once.


A short list of places that were ten times better than The Showbox for live music:

The OK Hotel
The Weathered Wall
The Off Ramp
Sub Zero
The Paradox
The Ballard Firehouse

...but sure, what the hell, let's try slamming the door to keep that last old horse in the barn.


Wanna bet he didn’t live in Cincinnati but some nw suburb of the city in Hamilton county and now thinks being a woke suburbanite gives him cred? He’s like some shitty John Hughes character with an earring and an architecture license he feels he must tell everyone about.


The writer is probably one of those bores who wants to tell you ad nauseam how you can't get a good bagel in the west.

I think it's up for the citizens to indicate to their government what their priorities are, and the citizens seem rather keen on preserving the showbox. Everyone complains about how no one care about issues, but when people do care, they get scolded.



"The citizens know what's good for them" is Tim Eyeman's line, don't steal it.


The Seattle City Council was aware of the selling of the building. If they genuinely cared about it, the historical designation would have been changed before the final sale.

The building was sold without adding it to the historical Pike Place Market district. The Council said nothing. Then they got pressure from the public. It was after this pressure that they changed their minds. It shows me one of 4 things.

They are worried about their popularity. Most of them are coming up for re-election.
They wanted the building gone and will not admit it because they were hoping it would slip through. They did the same thing with an Air BNB on Roy witch would have brought much more tax revenue. Read "How the Sausage is Made" by The Seattle Times to get caught up.
They believed there was no actual historic value in the building and they wanted the future taxes from a new building.

Any one of these theories can be disputed. But the fact remains that the Seattle City Council knew the building was being sold. If all 9 of them did not, they are not paying attention to the growth of the city as much as they claim. (That might actually be the case). Go to a council meeting and you might understand why. Either way, they created a bait and switch for the buyers. They changed the zoning after the sale. And now the new owners are trying to back out legally. With good reason. And the 4th point.

The Seattle Council wasn't trying to save the building. They were trying to save their ass.


David cole may not have a personal financial interest specifically related to this development. However, as an architect working in the industry he has a general professional interest in these types of deals moving forward in Seattle without local government stopping or slowing them down.
Additionally, the showbox is a culturally significant venue with a great history. It’s worth saving regardless of what legal definition is assigned to it. The slippery slope argument made in the article is absurd. Seattle is very pro business and pro development. One music venue being saved isn’t going to ruin that.


robotslave dear, I did not say that the citizens know what is good for them. If they did, we would have a much better run state, and Tim Eyeman would still be hawking his souvenir watches (or whatever it is he did).

I said "it's up for the citizens to indicate to their government what their priorities are, and the citizens seem rather keen on preserving the showbox." Just as they were keen on preserving the market many years ago, when it was proposed that it be demolished for the 60's version of a "mixed use development", and they were keen on not building a freeway up Empire Way to tie into 520 in the middle of the arboretum.

You may not like it. But it is what it is. I don't know why some people are so neurotic about its need to be demolished. It's one thing to be contrarian, it's quite another to be a toady for the wealthy.


Know what? Cincinnati is one of the ugliest cities in America. It's like an ode to tight asses and the rust belt. I think natives and wanna be natives ought to decide what's worth saving and what isn't. I arrived in delicious Seattle in 1987 and kissed the ground when I got here. The Showbox features prominently in my Seattle experience. No, it isn't Grand Central, but it has seen a lot of history.


Dude, have you been to Union Station? It looks a hell of a lot like Grand Central, but tiny. Of course it's an office for Sound Transit and closes at 5 p.m. and on weekends, so why would you go there?


We are always tearing down our music halls for supposedly higher purposes. Remember the Emerald Palace? Imagine turning Radio City into a mixed-use high rise.


A historic note: King Street station was designed by the same company as Grand Central Terminal. I believe it was constructed before Grand Central Terminal as well. It was restored about 10 years ago. But it is definately smaller and almost in a hole so you can only see the top from Jackson street.

But I am very happy you were able to live in some big cities so you could do some name dropping for this article. Where are you going next? You have been here a looooong time. 2 years. You should be proud of yourself. Memorize the tourist traps so you can fluff up your stories. But yeah, back to the story. Scrap the building.
BTW @39. Union station is beautiful. Hope they use it for the new light rail tunnel in the future.


Seattle's Orpheum Theatre was lost to the Washington Plaza Hotel (now the south tower of the glorified Holiday Inn we call the Seattle Westin). The Fox Theatre (the above-mentioned Emerald Palace, but most fondly remembered by me as "Jack McGovern's Music Hall"- a ridiculously campy dinner theatre/Vegas experience) was lost to a banal office building for Nordstrom. The Coliseum Theatre survives, but as a Banana Republic. Our only claims to fame, from a preservation standpoint, are the Fifth Avenue and Paramount.

It's not like we preserve any old theatre that comes along. As late as 1992, the Fox/Music Hall was a candidate for home for the Seattle Symphony, but we rejected it in favor of the "World-Class" Benaroya.


I think I would be more sympathetic to the plight of Showbox if they had ever done anything for the local music community. But they were a fairly pronounced example of run-amok medium sized fish in a small pond. I don't know how all of their talent buyers worked, but I didn't hear many great stories over the years. Underpaying local bands, wildly overpriced tickets for medium-draw acts, watery drinks. Uninteresting building that neither maximizes the use of land (good or bad), nor potential income for landowners, nor tax income for the city. If we were bulldozing a scrappy punk club, or a soup kitchen, or a building with any architectural merit, that would be one thing. This is none of those things.


Man, if I ever needed proof that Seattle is full of narcissistic assholes, I now have a lot of evidence all on one page.


Next up, David Cole explains how rain in Seattle isn't "real rain" like the rain that falls back east.


Basically sentiment ≠ historic landmark. Ask yourself if you would consider taking an out of town guest to blank place for sightseeing and if the answer is a resounding no than its probably not a historical landmark (obvious caveats for art history & historical events). I'd bet 99% of the people that want to save the Showbox would just point it out to a guest and say I blank person perform there.


“I once saw Pearl Jam at that theater when I was in high school, so we absolutely must save it. Also, I used to wash my Pearl Jam t-shirt at that laundromat, so yeah, we need to save that, too. And Eddie Vedder once filled up his car at that gas station. Boom. Historic landmark" has got to be one of the more insultingly stupid "slippery slope" arguments ever conceived. And I get that he thinks he's being funny or sarcastic or whatever, but if there's such a point to be made, then make it.



Nasality is for amateurs such as yourself. I was taught vocal technique by a former opera singer: I start with a lot of diaphragm support and relax the vocal cords, which allows for more open, continuous airflow. Proper stance is also crucial in order to provide as much structural support as possible, with the goal of generating a strong, resonant sound that can be easily heard and understood from a distance. As such, I can easily bounce my voice off the back of a 1,500 seat proscenium theatre without needing vocal augmentation, while still maintaining a sonorous dramatic bass-baritone range.


@48, he did make his point pretty well, which I guess is why everyone's coming back with attacks on his standing (2 years), his profession, the admittedly foolish idea that the proposed high-rise would help affordability (even though he didn't say that), etc., anything but the point in question.

The building is nothing, and when it's a thrift store or yet another CVS or whatever, no one will remember what went on there. The people who want to preserve it need to step up to what it will take: you need to buy it and run it as a venue, or say goodbye to it.


I never wanted to visit Cincinnati until I saw this Sufjan video filmed there.


Wait. You’ve been here two years?

Fuck right off, Dave. I mean, for real, get the fuck out with this nonsense.


It was a dump with bad sight-lines 30 years ago and it still is. Tear it down and build something "modern" with no walls and cement floors and the public will love it, and will clamor pay $1.5 million for a loft with no cabinet space.


You know what else is a long time Seattle Icon for the past 25 years with deep roots in the local music and arts community/ scene? The very fucking Publication that you wrote this for!!!! Places like the Showbox and the Stranger go hand in hand! And the people that support your very publication that you wrote this stupid article for are the very same people who will always support historic local venues like the Showbox. But hey when the venues die out and get taken over by the developers and Stanger goes out of business cause there are less and less venues to promote and advertise about, I'm sure we'll all flock to your blog about the new lobby design inside the latest over priced high rise. Don't bite the hand that feeds...


How much developer money DOES the stranger get to run these articles?? I’m dying to know.

I hope this winter is horrible and clears all these people out. The rain cometh, David. Might want to reflect on why so many people think you’re talking out of school here.


@21 & @53: Yes, how can persons who did not ever once study "Hamlet" in our local schools dare come here now and pay taxes to support those same schools? How dare they tip our local struggling actress-baristas? I'll bet some of them even dare to patronize our arts!!1!

Why, what we need are long-term residency requirements for housing and employment -- and maybe some local-literacy tests for voting, too. Enough of this "equal opportunity" nonsense! Make Seattle Great Again!(TM)

This, ladies and gents, is from where the "Save the Showbox" mentality actually originates.


I predict the itinerant who wrote this piece will have moved from Seattle before there is any final disposition on Showbox. Therefore, I suggest everyone simply ignore any arguments he makes.

This entire piece is simply meant to draw eyeballs to The Stanger and goose ad revenue. It's done that. Now everyone move along.


Unless you are either the owner of the property, or a potential buyer of the property, your opinion doesn't matter. The city has been sued, and will likely back down. This was a stupid fight to begin with, just like the "amazon tax". We need new leadership in Seattle. What a waste of time and resources.


@57: "I predict the itinerant who wrote this piece will have moved from Seattle before there is any final disposition on Showbox. Therefore, I suggest everyone simply ignore any arguments he makes."

Wow -- you wrote those two sentences and placed them one right after the other -- exactly as if there was some logical connection between them.

As @58 notes, we cannot ignore the lawsuit this stupid policy has bought us. (Even if all of our architects move away. Really.)


"sentiment ≠ historic landmark"

Are you kidding? Look at three of our historic landmarks: The Pike Place Market, The Fifth Avenue Theatre and Union Station. They have nothing to recommend them other than sentiment. They were preserved because of sentiment. They will continue to exist because of sentiment.

Seattle really doesn't have anything of historical significance, if by historical significance you mean that something historically significant happened there.


This piece is spot on. And I'm a musician that was born and raised here and absolutely loves the Showbox. Best venue in town. Many of my friends work there. Of course I want it to stay. That doesn't make it a historical landmark by any stretch though.


Fifth Avenue Theater and Union Station were suitable buildings for preservation, because of their architecture. Pike Place has been preserved as an institution. Can anything of value about the Showbox be preserved?


@62: MoPop can put up some pictures of bands playing there.

@60: 5th Ave. Theatre is a far better performance space than the downtown Showbox could ever hope to be. King Street Station serves riders every day. As noted @62, both are architecturally significant as well. Pike Place Market serves tourists and locals alike, and has great water views.

I have to give you praise for your closing paragraph, though. Just so! :-D


Tensor dear, Union Station - not King Street Station. Union Station serves absolutely no purpose, was a dumb train station when it was a train station (and an even worse concert venue when it was a concert venue) and - to my eyes - has all the charm of a toilet paper roll. Yet I don't begrudge its preservation.

Fifth Avenue is no more "architecturally significant" or a "far better performance space" than the Orpheum or the Music Hall were (I think it's kind of ugly and hokey inside. Just what a bunch of Norskies would come up with when trying to portray the "mystery of the Orient". Pike Place Market is largely a kitschy tourist mall, and would (arguably) serve a higher purpose as a row of high-rise luxury apartments and hotels.

What saved these buildings? Sentiment. People rose up - especially in the case of the market, which had a development plan to demolish it and turn into a row of high-rise luxury apartments and hotels - and demanded their preservation. Unico originally wanted to demolish the Fifth Avenue and Olympic Hotel and create more Rainier Tower-esque structures, but people weren't having it. Just like they weren't having a freeway through the CD.

I really don't get why people have so much bloodlust to see it demolished to accommodate the greed of some developer, but I guess that's just the way some folks are.


I've lived in London, Washington D.C., and Sophia-Antipolis in the south of France. I've lived here for over two decades.

Perhaps, just perhaps, you should consider that what you think is important isn't what the majority of people who live here think is important. Every place has its own culture. You don't value what little culture we have left.

In a few years, when you get bored and move somewhere else, we'll still be here.


@64: My bad about the train station mix-up. I thought we were talking about preserving facilities which still serve their original purposes.

‘Fifth Avenue is no more "architecturally significant" or a "far better performance space" than the Orpheum or the Music Hall were...’

I compared the 5th Avenue Theatre to the Showbox, not to those other places. I have no opinion on the 5th Avenue Theatre vis-a-vis those places you mentioned.

“Pike Place Market is largely a kitschy tourist mall,”

I live in Belltown, and go to Pike Place Market quite frequently. (And it has affordable housing in it, too!)

Of course sentiment is part of renovating and protecting old public spaces, dear! The question becomes, what is the sentimental value against the potential of new uses? King Street Station still moves commuters and travelers. 5th Avenue Theatre still hosts shows. Pike Place Market still sells goods. The Showbox is an ok spot for a pop music show, but another, better performance space could be built in another building on the same site, allowing multiple uses of the same land. That’s why I’m perfectly alright with such a change being made.

I’m completely against what our Council has done there — and I would be even if it wasn’t getting us sued over an old cinder-block building which was once a furniture store.


tensor, again, you are missing my point. This has captured the attention - the sentiment - of the people, and the politicians are responding. More people signed that shoebox petition than live in the city of Seattle. That's pretty impressive.

And if you think for even one second a replacement space will be built on the main floor of a luxury high-rise building, I think you should consider a more structured environment. Even if it were to happen, the most extreme booking would be Kenny G, and the tickets would be at a price point that only the affluent elderly would be tempted.

Rich people are horrible, and those who cater to them are even worse. Never forget that, dear.


@67: "tensor, again, you are missing my point."

Likewise, my dear.

"This has captured the attention - the sentiment - of the people, and the politicians are responding."

So what? Our City Council got spanked really hard by us in the EHT fight, and now they are casting about for anything which can make them look good without working. (E.g., CM Sawant was pretty clear that she's looking for an issue to exploit for her own, unrelated agenda.) Now, their thoughtless stampede into this matter has gotten us sued -- an outcome so obviously predictable, even The Stranger has admitted such -- and "The Showbox" may well disappear in 2020 when the lease expires anyway (even if the cinder-block building remains standing there, empty and forlorn).

"More people signed that shoebox petition than live in the city of Seattle. That's pretty impressive."

KEXP has a world-wide reach, and "Save the Showbox!!1!" was part of almost every air break I heard during the entire time our Council was screwing around. KEXP's DJs effectively deputized musicians all around the world to shill for this. As the world's cities go, Seattle's population is not large. So what if persons who cannot vote here "signed" a meaningless petition about a building many of them have never even seen in person, much less entered? Really, dear, you're being uncharacteristically naive.

"And if you think for even one second a replacement space will be built on the main floor of a luxury high-rise building, I think you should consider a more structured environment."

A friend of mine lived for years in a modern complex on Union Square in Manhattan. The building had at least four residential towers atop a multi-story hospital. (A children's hospital, I believe.) Downtown Seattle, especially near the Pike Place Market, is a mixed-used environment already; another mixed-use building would fit right in.

"Even if it were to happen, the most extreme booking would be Kenny G, and the tickets would be at a price point that only the affluent elderly would be tempted."

Um, whatever. The city could negotiate a deal about affordable ticket prices if it really wanted. But that would be work, which is hard, and anyway CM Sawant dictates (however ineffectually or even counter-productively) to rich corporations; she does not negotiate with them -- or with anyone else, for that matter.

"Rich people are horrible, and those who cater to them are even worse. Never forget that, dear."

I'm talking about exploiting a wealthy, foreign developer to obtain free private capital to use for our city's civic improvement, dear. By contrast, your publicly preening your cranky little attitude problem will contribute nothing to our city -- or to this dialog. Toodles!


Oh tensor: Our dear, sweet, angry, tensor. You don't understand the difference between a children's hospital and a music club (Here's a hint, dear - they draw very different crowds), and you DON'T want the city to prevent the demolition of the Showbox, but you DO want them to force a highly theoretical replacement venue to provide affordable tickets. Are you sure you don't work for CM Sawant? You sound just like one of her staff.

Your discounting of the "meaningless" petition shows a charming naiveté as well: Oh, BOO on KEXP! If only the politicians were as smart as you and understood that it was just a bunch of global musicians, and there was little involvement in it by the citizens of Our Fair City, I'm sure they'd dust off the red carpet, and roll it out to the developer. (which, in fairness, they will probably end up doing, because Seattle is all about the almighty dollar, but they'll couch it in something regretful sounding)

As for "wealthy, foreign developer"(s) - they are rich people too! And rich people are horrible (see above). Could it be that it is because you are one of their toadies that you don't recognize that? Honest work is available in this economy, dear. As a rock combo of my era sang "You don't have to put on the red light".

I'm sorry you don't care for my opinions, but awfully relieved that that doesn't matter much to me.


Great article but I will say shitty references to San Francisco where neither of those stories have anything to do with landmark status and everything to do with selfish zoning laws, similar to what Seattle has done.


@69: “You don't understand the difference between a children's hospital and a music club (Here's a hint, dear - they draw very different crowds)...”

I understand it perfectly well, which is why I cited the hospital as an example. (Here’s a hint, dear - one is far more expensive to put in a residential building.)

‘Oh, BOO on KEXP! If only the politicians were as smart as you and understood that it was just a bunch of global musicians, and there was little involvement in it by the citizens of Our Fair City,’

Have any numbers on how many registered Seattle voters actually signed the petition? Nope, didn’t think so.

(And you’re claiming our City Council was smart to invite a lawsuit? Is that your proof of their wisdom on political matters?)

“... a highly theoretical replacement venue...”

There are several large buildings downtown, where persons sleep upstairs whilst a large performance space hosts big events with music on the main level. (In case you’re not familiar, these places are called “hotels” and “ballrooms.”)

“ DON'T want the city to prevent the demolition of the Showbox ... work for CM Sawant? You sound just like one of her staff... are one of their toadies?”

Now that, dear, is one truly amazing Venn Diagram you’ve built around little old me! Who says cheap cocktails and set theory can’t work wonders together?

“I'm sorry you don't care for my opinions, but awfully relieved that that doesn't matter much to me.”

Your opinion of rich people is as puerile as it is unhelpful, dear — and puts you much, much closer to Sawant than I am. (And you just spent an awful lot of words on something you claim not to care about. Hmmm...)