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Showbox Venue, Part Of Seattle Music History, Unanimously Designated Landmark

The interior of the 80-year-old Showbox venue that seats approximately 1,100. It is one of a few music venues in Seattle that can accommodate midsized audiences.

The Landmarks Preservation Board unanimously designated The Showbox a landmark last week based on its significant contribution to the cultural heritage of the city and its distinctive exterior and interior characteristics.

Historic Seattle submitted the landmark nomination with Friends of Historic Belltown and Vanishing Seattle in August 2018 after Vancouver-based Onni Group announced plans to redevelop the property. Onni Group has since pulled out of the deal, according to a statement by Historic Seattle.

The Showbox has served as a music venue for 58 years of its 102-year history. It has been a venue for all types of genres including jazz and grunge.

At the landmark hearing, a statement was issued by a representative of Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan: “I have witnessed the growth of Seattle in my 55 years, and progress has been awesome to this city. But progress alone does not make a city great. The places and history of places exactly like The Showbox are what separate great cities from the others. I believe Seattle to be a great city, but if we lose The Showbox, this great city will notch down and lose a venue that is its heartbeat.”

Ben Gibbard, of Death Cab for Cutie, also issued a statement: “The Showbox is an institution. It is to Seattle as The Fillmore is to San Francisco or First Avenue is to Minneapolis. It feeds the soul of our city.”

While the designation offers some protection, landmark status alone will not save the venue. It does not protect the building from demolition.

“While we celebrate this exciting victory, we know that our work is far from over,” Historic Seattle’s director of preservation services, Eugenia Woo, said in a statement. “Although landmarking offers protections for the physical elements of the property and not its use, this is a critical step that helps to save the building that houses The Showbox.”

Historic Seattle is continuing its efforts to raise the funds needed to purchase the property through a fundraising campaign.

“We have decades of experience in operating, rehabilitating, and maintaining historic properties, including unreinforced masonry buildings, that make us confident we can keep The Showbox safely in use for the public benefit for generations to come,” Woo said.