The city’s Landmarks Preservation Board unanimously voted Wednesday evening to nominate the Showbox nightclub for landmark status. Following the nomination, the board now has 60 days to do additional study on the building before deciding to give the venue a final landmark designation at their July 17 meeting.
The venue’s nomination was filed with the board by Historic Seattle, a local non-profit that has campaigned heavily around saving the venue after news broke last July that a developer planned on bulldozing the venue. Historic Seattle’s landmarking attempt is one of two concurrent efforts to save the venue, the other being the City Council’s temporary extension of the Pike Place Market Historical District.
The council’s effort is considered more likely to actually protect the venue, as the market’s district has the power to tell private business owners exactly how buildings in the district can be used. Landmark status cannot accomplish this, the status can only protect specific physical features of the building. Property owners can also get approval to bulldoze landmarks if they can demonstrate financial hardship. So, while a landmark designation can complicate redevelopment plans, there’s little hope that landmark status will keep music on the venue’s stage.
That’s especially the case because the building’s owner, Roger Forbes, appears to have no interest in maintaining the Showbox as a music venue. Forbes sued the city after the council gave the venue temporary protections, seeking over $40 million in damages and a reversal of the Pike Place Market Historical District's expansion. Forbes has publicly said he would accept “fair-market-value” for the building, but he continues to actively try to end the space as a venue. Forbes sent a letter to AEG in April, the international company that currently runs the Showbox, notifying the company that he would not renew their lease when it expires in 2024.
Aaron Pickus, a spokesperson for Forbes’s company, declined to say why Forbes decided to send the letter in 2019, five years before the lease expires. Pickus said Forbes’s ownership group “evaluated long term potential uses of the property and value and concluded against the renewal.”