The Palace of Fine Arts’s exhibition hall is available for rent, but whoever wishes to lease the iconic property will be responsible for repairs and rehab work potentially costing tens of millions of dollars.
Any future tenant at the 98-year-old building, will have to pay at least $6.5 million to replace the original pilings, the roof’s trusses, and perform other foundational work, according to Marc L’Italien, principal at San Francisco-based EHDD Architecture, which conducted a study examining the rehab needs.
The 1993 roof — which could be changed to incorporate more skylights, a feature of the original roof — also needs replacing, along with roof drains, a new sprinkler system, and a new emergency generator to supply power to the building, said L’Italien, who noted that the 80,000-square-foot space last occupied by the Exploratorium is nonetheless in “great shape for its age.” Architect Bernard Maybeck designed the palace for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
Since the former tidal marsh where the Palace sits is prone to flooding, it also needs “drainage work,” L’Italien said, adding that this is on top of the $6.5 million bill for the foundation and trusses.
And that’s just the “cold shell upgrades” to the building’s bones and exterior. Any interior improvements will have to be added to any future tenant’s bill, which could vary wildly depending on who or what the tenant is.
A formal estimate of the work total has yet to be conducted but people familiar with the site say it could run between $15 million and $25 million, depending on the tenant.
“The numbers have been all over the place,” said Kevin O’Brien, who manages the Palace of Fine Arts Theater, which takes up another 38,000 square feet, about one-third of the total space available. The theater’s lease expires in 2014, and it may be evicted depending on the long-term tenant plan.
The Palace’s landlord, the Recreation and Park Department, has no money available fix the building, according to property manager Nick Kinsey,. Voters did pass a $195 million bond in November to raise cash for the department, but all that money is earmarked for specific projects.
Neighbors in the Marina want to see something the community can use, possibly an art-related organization or a child-friendly establishment, according to Ariel Ungerleider Kelley, president of the Marina Community Association. But the steep price tag “is obviously going to limit the pool of people that logistically can get in there,” said Supervisor Mark Farrell, who represents the area.
In the meantime, The Town School For Boys, a private school in Pacific Heights, will lease the space for $42,000 a month until summer 2014, with a possible extension through the end of the year. The Exploratorium paid Rec and Park, which owns the facility, $39,600 a month in rent, according to the most recent lease. The Theater pays $180,000 a year in rent, O’Brien said.
The Department hopes to have new tenants bid on the property by next spring, Kinsey said.