New life for the Armory, finally?

From today’s SF Business Times,

The Inner Mission’s cavernous, vacant armory has long attracted drug addicts looking for a quiet place to shoot dope.

Now for the first time in years, it’s buzzing with new activity: Developers, lawyers, architects and engineers armed with blueprints and dreams of revitalization.

Mission Preservation Partners LLC is proposing to convert the property into 173 condos and 32,000 square feet of office space. The company, which has hired land-use attorney Brett Gladstone and local developer Richard Dishnica, may be the most promising and well-funded attempt yet to bring the military landmark back to life, according to those familiar with 25 years of failed development attempts.

Yet the prospects of this project, like other treasured but dilapidated landmarks around the city, remain a long shot. From the United States Mint building at 88 Fifth St. to the Hibernia Bank edifice at 1 Jones St., San Francisco has a rich roster of elegant, vacant historic buildings and plenty of investors wishing to redevelop them.

Yet the cost of restoring landmark buildings and the politics inherent in taking on a beloved historic structure ensure these projects fail more often than they succeed. Restoring a landmark requires an extra set of preservationist architects, sub-contractors that experts suggest add about 20 percent to construction costs. Landmark projects also generally need the blessing of community groups like the Landmark Preservation Advisory Board and San Francisco Heritage.

Over the past 25 years, developers and neighborhood groups have tried to transform the landmark National Guard Armory and Arsenal into everything from condos to a community center to a dot-com incubator to a computer co-location facility. Each time, the ambitious plans have fizzled out.

Some projects were killed by neighborhood opposition, some by changing economic conditions, some because the developers didn’t have the persistence or deep enough pockets to pull the project off. And some were just bad ideas. [more…]

The Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition (MAC) has been fighting (with the ‘supes help) any form of improvement to this block that isn’t a complete financial nightmare for any willing developer.

In the meantime, this building (and the former print shop building on the other half of the block) sits empty, attracting crime, drugs, and prostitution.

It’s time for the community (and especially MAC) to be realistic about what it will take to create housing on this block and rid the northern end of the Mission of this wide-open block of drugs and crime.

It appears that there is finally a developer who can pull this off. Quit fighting about it and work on a solution that is actually practical for everyone.

Another application filed to turn Armory into housing [SFHomeBlog]
Battles are brewing for Mission rezoning plan [SFHomeBlog]


One Response to “New life for the Armory, finally?”

  1. so…who owns Hibernia Bank?? Rumor had it a few years ago it was some dude in Berkeley named Thomas Lin (for some reason the name sounds terribly familiar). But no one was able to track him down to inquire as to the state of his building. How do I find the owner of such a beautiful historical landmark ?? I am dying to know!! It’s just not fair to lovers of amazing architecture that this breathtaking piece of history be left to the vagrants, junkies, and dealers that litter its steps with crack, vomit, and urine. Someone’s got to do something about it! Save Hibernia Bank!!

    Holly at April 15th, 2008 at 2:11 am ( )

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