Historic Seattle and Seattle Theatre Group make offer to buy 80-year-old Showbox

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Seattle Theatre Group, operator of the Paramount, Moore and Neptune theaters, has teamed up with the preservation group Historic Seattle in an effort to buy the Showbox.

The two organizations have formed a partnership for the purchase and submitted a formal offer in October, according to a news release Tuesday evening from Historic Seattle. If the offer is accepted, the partners intend to retain international entertainment promoter AEG as the operating tenant through at least 2024.

Naomi West, director of philanthropy and engagement with Historic Seattle, declined to say how much the partners offered.

Historic Seattle made a preliminary offer earlier this year to purchase the Showbox, though no agreement was reached at the time.

The 80-year-old Showbox music hall, on First Avenue between Union and Pike streets, has hosted big acts from the jazz age to today’s pop stars. Last year, it looked like the Showbox would be demolished when developer Onni Group filed initial plans to erect a 44-story tower on the site. But Onni backed out after the Seattle City Council passed an ordinance that temporarily placed the music venue within the Pike Place Market Historical District, effectively blocking a deal to sell the property to a developer.

Showbox owner Roger Forbes sued and a King County Superior Court judge struck down the city’s ordinance. The two parties later reached a settlement in which the city would pay Forbes $915,000 in legal fees and other costs.

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As part of the deal, Forbes granted the city “the exclusive and freely assignable first right and option” to buy the property and “Showbox” name for $41.4 million.

Aaron Pickus, a representative for Forbes, said in a statement Tuesday night: “Regarding any potential sale of 1426 First Avenue, the owner has and will always consider any purchaser that offers fair market-value for the property. For example, the recent settlement agreement with the City of Seattle created an option to purchase the property for $41.4 million. This option has not yet been exercised by the City.”

The settlement deal between Forbes and the city was also contingent on the Landmarks Preservation Board and City Council placing no controls — the restrictions that would protect elements of the venue, such as the marquee — on the property. So, if a buyer never materializes or is unable to reach a purchase agreement, the settlement could be terminated and an unprotected Showbox could potentially hit the market.

The autonomous preservation board, which recommended granting the venue landmark status in the summer, is under no legal obligation to comply with the settlement terms and could recommend controls as it sees fit.

Separate from its offer to buy the Showbox, Historic Seattle said negotiations with Forbes’ representatives over controls continue, and the preservation group will continue to advocate for them on Dec. 18 at a public meeting of the Landmarks Preservation Board.

Seattle Times music writer Michael Rietmulder contributed to this report.

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