1907 build­ing in SoMa a gift to arts group

San Francisco Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - By Sam Whit­ing

As a jazz singer, Moy Eng is for­ever in search of an old brick room with in­dus­trial charm and solid acous­tics. So when she walked into the va­cant Demp­ster Print­ing Build­ing on Minna Street, she burst into a scale of notes that rose up through the red­wood rafters and lin­gered there.

Now Eng plans on turn­ing the build­ing into a small per­for­mance venue to be the main at­trac­tion in a four­story com­mu­nity arts hub that will open in late 2020 as part of the 5M mixed­use de­vel­op­ment be­hind The Chron­i­cle build­ing at Fifth and Mis­sion streets.

Eng was the first to sing there be­cause her day job is as ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Com­mu­nity Arts Sta­bi­liza­tion Trust, an in­de­pen­dent non

profit that ad­dresses the chal­lenge of keep­ing the arts in the city.

In Oc­to­ber 2018, CAST was given the 112­year­old Demp­ster build­ing by Brook­field Prop­er­ties to off­set the con­struc­tion of three tow­ers — one each for of­fice, con­dos and rental apart­ments. The $1 bil­lion project will be con­structed in phases, and the Demp­ster arts hub will open a year be­fore the first tower opens, said Swathi Bonda, direc­tor of de­vel­op­ment for Brook­field.

“We’re look­ing at mu­sic pro­duc­tion, lit­er­ary arts, youth de­vel­op­ment, and what am I for­get­ting?” Eng asks her­self dur­ing an exclusive tour for The Chron­i­cle. Then she re­mem­bers: “Film and dig­i­tal me­dia, vis­ual arts and pho­tog­ra­phy.”

The ten­ants have not yet been se­lected for the space, but they all will be non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions pay­ing be­low­mar­ket rent, by the year, the month or the event, Eng says.

Lo­cated on the western edge of the 5­acre site, the Demp­ster build­ing stands alone, a sur­vivor among in­dus­trial build­ings that have been lev­eled and sur­face park­ing lots that have been dug up in ad­vance of heavy con­struc­tion for tow­ers. This quad­rant hasn’t looked this bare since the earthquake and con­fla­gra­tion of 1906.

De­signed by city ar­chi­tect Wil­liam Mooser, the Demp­ster was among the first build­ings to rise from the rub­ble. It was com­pleted in 1907 to house both Demp­ster Bros. print­ing and the Glafke Elec­tric Co. The build­ing was later sold to the Hearst Corp., which used it as a photo ar­chive and test kitchen for the San Fran­cisco Ex­am­iner. Hearst later pur­chased The Chron­i­cle.

The Demp­ster had been va­cant for 10 years when a fire erupted near the front door in the predawn hours of Aug. 29, 2016. The flames went up the el­e­va­tor shaft to the roof, which was de­stroyed. This left a con­ve­niently empty shell to build upon, un­der a new truss ceil­ing.

Hearst then sold its half of the 5M de­vel­op­ment to its part­ner For­est City, which was it­self bought by Brook­field Prop­er­ties. Brook­field do­nated the Demp­ster build­ing to CAST, which al­ready owns and op­er­ates the Coun­terPulse dance head­quar­ters and the­ater on Turk Street in the Ten­der­loin and the Lug­gage Store Gallery on Mar­ket Street.

“The long­term vi­sion is to cre­ate a con­stel­la­tion of build­ings to ad­dress the whole is­sue of af­ford­able space for artists,” Eng says.

The Demp­ster is CAST’s first ven­ture in South of Mar­ket and also the first of the con­stel­la­tions. It comes with an acre of out­door space called Mary Court to be pro­grammed by CAST in part­ner­ship with Brook­field Prop­er­ties. Eng sees it as an in­door/out­door liv­ing room and gallery.

There could be live mu­sic both in­side and out, along with out­door films and spo­ken­word per­for­mances. Fund­ing for those per­form­ers should not be an is­sue be­cause, in ad­di­tion to the do­na­tion of the Demp­ster, Brook­field Prop­er­ties is ob­li­gated to con­trib­ute 1% of the to­tal con­struc­tion cost to art, which amounts to $5.4 mil­lion. Most de­vel­op­ers put it into a sculp­ture or other per­ma­nent work that en­hances the value of the struc­ture, but Brook­field plans to do­nate its 1% to CAST — $3.2 mil­lion to build out the arts stu­dio and of­fice space at Demp­ster and $2.2 mil­lion to de­velop pro­gram­ming, in part­ner­ship with the San Fran­cisco Arts Com­mis­sion.

The first piece of pub­lic art al­ready comes with the build­ing, the “Let’s Go Gi­ants!” painted across the east­fac­ing side, a relic from the World Se­ries years. Eng and her clas­sic jazz en­sem­ble wouldn’t mind singing on an out­door stage un­der that sign or in­doors be­tween the brick walls. Her al­bum, “The Blue Hour,” ar­ranged by Wayne Wal­lace, was re­leased in July by Pa­tois Records, and the pro­mo­tional tour could still be go­ing when the Demp­ster opens in a year.

“It’s rare to be able to per­form in a space that has such char­ac­ter and warmth,” she says, “and to sing be­fore your own com­mu­nity would be a thrill.”

Brook­field Prop­er­ties

Aerial ren­der­ing of the planned pub­lic plaza out­side the Demp­ster Print­ing Build­ing (lower left).

Liz Hafalia / The Chron­i­cle

Front view of the his­toric Demp­ster Print­ing Build­ing that has been do­nated to the Com­mu­nity Arts Sta­bi­liza­tion Trust.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.