The 79-year-old Showbox music hall in downtown Seattle would apparently be demolished, the latest victim of the real estate boom that is transforming the city, under a proposed plan to build a $100 million apartment high rise on the site.
The Showbox, on First Avenue between Union and Pike streets, has hosted big acts from the jazz age to the grunge era to today’s pop stars.
A developer based in Vancouver, B.C., called Onni Group, filed initial plans with the city this week to build a 440-foot, 442-unit apartment tower with ground-level retail and 88 parking spaces on the site.
Further details on the plans have not been filed, but when asked under the city application process whether the project would include tearing down existing buildings, the developer said “yes.” The site includes only one two-story building, put up in 1916, that houses the Showbox along with a pub and a couple other storefronts.
Rob Thomas, Pacific Northwest vice president of AEG Live, which owns the Showbox, was just learning of the reports Wednesday morning and had no immediate comment.
Among others, Onni is working with local power broker and prominent attorney Jack McCullough on the project. McCullough did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
R.M. Watson, a real estate and investment banking firm, is listed as the representative of the owner of the property and also did not respond to a request for comment. The Nevada LLC that owns the property is associated with Roger Forbes, a local strip club owner.
An employee at the Blarney Stone Pub and Restaurant, located on the site, said pub staff were still gathering information about the reported plans.
The project has been in the works since at least May, when architect Perkins + Will filed a vague site plan for a project it called “Onni Showbox.”
The Daily Journal of Commerce first reported plans for the new apartment tower.
The plans for the project are still in the initial stages and could take years to come to fruition, if they do. Public meetings on the project will be scheduled after a formal design application is filed, which should come soon.
And there will no doubt be efforts by the community to try and save the concert venue, possibly by petitioning to add a historical designation to the site.
“This one really hurts!” the Friends of Historic Belltown posted on its Facebook page Wednesday. “While we know we will be called obstructionists and blamed for the housing shortage and rising housing costs — this one seems worth fighting for. It is clearly tied to the cultural identity of Seattle — and ROCKS with history.”
The club opened as a music venue in 1939 — exactly 79 years ago Tuesday — and has welcomed artists from jazz legends like Duke Ellington to grunge greats and a once up-and-coming rapper named Macklemore. In the past few months, the Showbox has hosted everything from stoner metal favorites Sleep to a red-carpeted rock ‘n’ roll gala honoring Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready. Veteran Seattle indie rockers Minus the Bear, who recently announced their breakup, are scheduled to play their final two shows ever at the club in December.
In 2007, longtime owner Jeff Steichen sold the fabled club to heavyweight promoter AEG Live — an international power player in the concert business. That year, Showbox brass also took over the former Fenix Underground, re-christening the 1,800-capacity venue Showbox SoDo and rebranding the original Showbox the Showbox at the Market.
The Showbox at the Market’s closure would be a disheartening blow to Seattle’s music community, which has lost a number of cherished venues over the years. “The original Funhouse closing was personally more painful for me, but the Showbox closing feels very nail-in-the-coffin,” lamented one fan on social media.
The Showbox block is quickly becoming one of Seattle’s most controversial development sites.
Next door, across an alley from the Showbox, plans for a new 14-story hotel have riled neighbors who have collected more than 7,000 signatures to try and block the project, which would be built at one of the entrances to Pike Place Market.
Onni has been stepping up its presence in Seattle. The company is also developing four residential and office towers on two blocks in South Lake Union that include the former Seattle Times newsroom; it’s one of the biggest projects in the city.