The Funhouse—known to tourists as "that creepy clown place"—has been a popular, divy punk rock club operating in the criss-crossed shadows of the Space Needle and the monorail since Halloween night, 2003. But the building may soon be bulldozed for condos:
The proposal is for a seven-story mixed-use structure containing 106-112 dwelling units and four live-work units. Parking for 85-87 vehicles to be provided at and below grade. Existing structures to be demolished.
Last night, over 100 Funhouse fans packed a meeting* of one of the city's design review boards, held at the Queen Anne community center, to hear plans to replace their club and a two-story office building on the corner of 5th Ave North—a desolate block punctuated by a McDonalds and Ride the Ducks HQ—with a 70-foot condo project, courtesy of NK Architects. The room was very Jets vs. Suits. Check it out:
"Wait till you see our amenities!"
"My amenity is a boot up your ass."
Unsurprisingly, the crowd was not appeased by the news that their punk club would be sacrificed to give yuppies stunning city views.
*Roughly 100 more people than usually attend design review meetings.
As Jens Muller project manager for the architect firm, explained to the bristling crowd awaiting a chance to speak, condo residents would enjoy "literally three landmark view directions—to the west, the Space Needle and Seattle Center, [to the east] Lake Union and Mount Baker, and south towards downtown with maybe some harbor action," explained a project manager for the architect firm, as the crowd waiting for its chance to submit public comment.
"I’m frustrated that they want to turn a beloved music venue into a vertical residence—basically furthering their mission of making Seattle’s downtown nightlife and music scene obsolete," said nightlife music veteran Amanda Rotter while waiting in line to enter the meeting. "Look at our entertainment business—it's what attracted Starbucks and other big businesses to Seattle. I wish we could get back to that old-school industry, I really do."
But design review members weren't interested in hearing emotional arguments against the development—their job is only to collect public feedback on the design proposal itself. "Please keep your comments limited to suggestions for [the presenters]," explained one member, repeatedly.
So they obliged. "Are you talking about soundproofing the north face?" one woman asked. "Because it's incredibly difficult [to drown out] the Duck tours going every hour. I know I wouldn’t drop a couple hundred grand on a condo with that as my nearest neighbor."
And frankly, the design wasn't that inspiring—instead of playing to the neighborhood's current strengths of daytime tourism traffic and weird, gritty nightlife, the developers chose to cut all options for retail on the street level (basically killing street activity for the whole block). "Retail isn't a good idea [here]," Muller argued, "it wouldn't survive." Really? Retail wouldn't survive in building sandwiched between the Space Needle and Downtown, and our new Amazon basin? Are you fucking kidding?
The crowd's criticisms were smart and pretty spot-on. Overall, it was an strong showing from Funhouse supporters, and as proprietor Brian Foss pointed out last week, this deal is by no means finalized.
But music lovers should be steeled for the shitty, nearly-inevitably reality that their club will someday be bulldozed. It's between downtown, South Lake Union, and Seattle Center, all of which are attracting more development.
I really commend their efforts though; the Funhouse is worth preserving. But at this point, I only hope its fans will work as hard to relocate their club as they're now spending trying to save it.