‘Derelict’ S.F. Presidio buildings to be revitalized

Presidio officials are considering development proposals — from a film complex to an eco-center — for a 12-building district of dilapidated, historic buildings next to the national park’s main post.

The brick Thornburgh buildings sit adjacent to the Lucas Films’ Letterman Digital Arts Center, previously the historic Letterman Hospital. The Golden Gate Bridge is visible to the west down Thornburgh Road.

Craig Middleton, the executive director of the Presidio, called the Thornburgh complex a “challenge and an opportunity,” since the historic buildings need to be rehabilitated — a job he estimates could cost between $30 million and $40 million — as part of any project.

“If you walk through it now, it’s pretty derelict,” Middleton said. “It’s one of those sleeping places that’s waiting to be awakened.”

The Presidio is a former military base that was designated a national park in 1994. As a condition of its preservation, the federal government required that the 1,168-acre park become financially self-sufficient by 2013.

Last fall, the park’s governing board, the Presidio Trust, began soliciting ideas for the 144,000-square-foot Thornburgh complex, suggesting that its location made it ideal for a mixed-use development project. Any plan chosen would need to incorporate environmentally sustainable design and outline how the Presidio Trust would be financially compensated by the development.

Three firms — Equity Community Builders and Gordon Development, both based in San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.-based Federal Development — submitted formal proposals. The trust is expected to choose one of the plans by the end of September, according to Dana Polk, a Presidio spokeswoman.

Equity Community Builders has proposed creating a “Center for Green Economy,” to serve businesses and nonprofits involved in renewable energy technology and environmental causes. Gordon Development has envisioned a film complex, complete with screening rooms and production facilities. Federal Development submitted plans for a pedestrian-oriented development with office space, restaurants and retail.

An estimated 2,400 people live in the Presidio and more than 3,000 employees work for nonprofit, for-profit and governmental organizations within the national park. At full occupancy, the resident population is expected to reach 3,800 and the number of employees is expected to total 6,900, according to the Presidio Trust.

Wire thieves suspected in fire

Authorities suspect copper wire thieves caused a one-alarm fire Sunday in an empty building in the Thornburgh district — part of a group of historic Presidio buildings that may soon be slated for development.

The building, at 1050 Thornburgh Road, held the boiler for the old Letterman Hospital, Presidio Trust spokeswoman Dana Polk said.

According to the San Francisco Fire Department, the fire was reported at 3:13 a.m. Firefighters were able to get it under control by 4:03 a.m.

“It was caused by vandals stealing copper wire,” Polk said. “They accidentally cut out a power line when they were trying to get to the copper load. It caused a spark that started the fire.”

Fire damage to the building was minimal, but smoke damage was considerable, Polk said. The fire knocked out power in the immediate area. Presidio officials expect it to be restored this morning.

“There aren’t many residential units on that part of the park, but there may be some nonresidential tenants in that area who are affected,” Polk said.

The vandals were not caught and the fire remains under investigation. Thieves steal copper wire in order to sell it to scrap metal plants. – Tamara Barak

beslinger@examiner.com

tbarak@examiner.com


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