Printable version: St. Joseph's Church in SoMa will become offices St. Joseph's Church in SoMa willbecome officesStephanie M. Lee, Chronicle Staff WriterWednesday, February 1, 2012 Built nearly a century ago, St. Joseph's Church hasdeteriorated from a stately place of worship into avacant and boarded-up eyesore.
In its next incarnation, it could be the hotdestination for technology startups in the South ofMarket neighborhood. Or so its new owner hopes.
The 1913 city landmark, one of a handful of vacant churches in San Francisco, stands three stories tallon the southwest corner of Howard and 10th streets. It was forced to close when the 1989 earthquakedamaged it to the point of being seismically unsound. For the next two decades, transients and drugaddicts broke in, slept there and trashed it.
Then about three years ago, Chris Foley of the Polaris Group, a real estate group, bought it for anundisclosed sum with the aim of bringing it back from the dead.
"We realized that with technology businesses really growing, we could potentially make this office spaceand maintain the volume," he said.
Under a plan the San Francisco Historic Preservation Commission will consider today, the church wouldget a seismic upgrade.
Its faded stucco exterior would be cleaned and restored under the guidance of historic preservationarchitecture firm Page & Turnbull. New landscaping, entrances accessible to all, new fences, a restoredskylight and reconstructed light fixtures based on the originals would brighten the facade.
The inside, once lined by pews, could host 21,000 square feet of open offices and a 1,000-square-footcafe serving both workers and passers-by.
The altar and confessional booths would go. The pipe organ would be donated to the Salvation Army.
The chapel would become restrooms, and the sacristy, a storage room for church furnishings, wouldturn into offices. The stained-glass windows, however, would be restored and kept. Printable version: St. Joseph's Church in SoMa will become offices "The goal is to rehabilitate a fabulous structure and reinvigorate a blighted corner," said developer BrianSpiers, who is overseeing the site's construction.
If the city approves the plan, Foley hopes to start work in July and open the space by 2013.
Foley acknowledges the process won't be easy - or cheap. After he bought it, he opened the door to find2,000 rotting pigeons.
He estimates cleanup and renovation could cost $15 million, and hopes to get tax breaks for fixing up ahistoric landmark.
When the rehabilitation wraps, Foley is counting on tech tenants trying to cram into the South ofMarket district. That area's vacancy rate was just 3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, according toan analysis by Jones Lang LaSalle, a real estate services firm.
"Some tenants say absolutely not, because it used to be a church . just because of their views towardchurch and state," Foley said.
Y et he's confident the space's novelty and beauty will wow others. "It's pretty fabulous," he said.
While St. Joseph's Church is on its way to possibly reopening, other vacant churches in San Franciscoare languishing. For example, developers are suing the city after it stopped them from demolishing FirstSt. John's United Methodist Church, at 1601 Larkin St., and building residential units, according to theCity Planning Department.
Sacred Heart Church, at 554 Fillmore St., was declared a state landmark, and there are no currentproposals to redevelop it. The Second Church of Christ Scientist, at 651 Dolores St., is proposed to beconverted into condos. And the Golden Gate Lutheran Church, at 601 Dolores St., was converted into ahome that will be used by the nearby Children's Day School.
Jim Meko, who chairs the SoMa Leadership Council, said he thinks the St. Joseph's Church renovationwill enhance the area, which will soon feature hundreds of housing units and Twitter's headquarters.
"Everybody is just waiting for him to do something to activate the space," Meko said of Foley.
As kids, Foley and Spiers were altar boys who attended Catholic school. They won't be using this churchin quite the same way as they did then, but they hope to make it look just as good.
"It's a grand beautiful building," Spiers said. "Hopefully we'll be able to bring it back up to that samegrandeur." E-mail Stephanie M. Lee at [email protected] Printable version: St. Joseph's Church in SoMa will become offices This article appeared on page C - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle 2012 Hearst Com m unications Inc. | Privacy Policy | Feedback | RSS Feeds | FAQ | Site Index | Contact


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