Saving the Showbox
The Seattle City Council voted to extend protections for the Showbox Theater for another six months as they attempt to save the historic venue from demolition.
The measure passed 8-1 with Councilmember Abel Pacheco the sole no vote.
City council members initially voted to extend the historic district that protects the Pike Place Market to include the Showbox over protests from owner Roger Forbes who sued the city claiming $40 million in damages.
The fight over the fate of the Showbox has been deeply divisive.
Proponents of saving the building as a concert venue see it as a piece of Seattle’s history that would otherwise be sacrificed for developer greed. Opponents point to the millions of dollars of fees that would flow to the city to build affordable housing, units that would ostensibly prevent displacement of lower-income Seattleites.
It’s not clear that the Showbox can be saved, at least, not in its current form.
Independent journalist Erica C. Barnett published an exclusive piece in the days before the vote showing that the lease on the property held by AEG Live NW, a production company, would “not be extended or renewed” after its expiration in 2024.
Fort Lawton inches forward
The City Council may be pumping the brakes on the Showbox development, but it’s desperately trying to jumpstart an affordable housing development adjacent to Discovery Park.
Councilmembers voted to move forward with an application to the United States Department of Defense and Department of Housing and Urban Development that will help clear the way for the city to acquire the 34-acre parcel where the now-shuttered military base once stood.
They also approved a memorandum of agreement with the Seattle School District No. 1 for the acquisition and development of multi-use athletic fields.
The development of nearly 240 units of affordable rental and home ownership options has been more than a decade in the making. Fort Lawton formally closed in 2005 and the city submitted a redevelopment plan in 2008. However, the Magnolia Neighborhood Planning Council filed a lawsuit claiming that the city had not done enough environmental review. In 2010, the Court of Appeals agreed that the city needed to go back and do additional review.
Seattle’s economy cooled during the Great Recession, scuttling plans to redevelop the property. The city revisited those plans in 2017 and when opponents sued again on environmental grounds, the Hearing Examiner found for the city.
Now, officials have until the end of the year to hit benchmarks set by the federal government or risk losing the property altogether.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC
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