Rob Thomson, a preservation officer with the Presidio Trust, points to a section of a mural painted in the 1950's by soldiers in the training room of their barracks at Fort Winfield Scott on Monday, April 2, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Presidio Trust moves to reinvent Fort Winfield Scott as a ‘Campus for Change’

Nearly 300,000 square feet of indoor space in the Presidio that has sat mostly empty for more than two decades could soon be transformed into what the Presidio Trust board has dubbed a “Campus for Change.”

Fort Winfield Scott, one of the last large sites in the Presidio in need of revitalization, has been sitting unoccupied for 24 years, with the exception of four office spaces.

Now, the Presidio Trust is looking to lease it to businesses willing to rehabilitate the historic military buildings located in the Presidio’s northeast corner.

The Trust’s goal for the 22-building complex, which stands in a horseshoe around a large field of grass known as the parade ground, is to reinvent a portion of the army base that has been closed off to the public since 1994 as a hub for promoting social and environmental awareness.

Tours for responding businesses and organizations began in February and those interested in using part or all of the space are expected to present their concepts to the Presidio Trust board and executive team in late July. Responses to the request for concept proposals are due in June.

Of the buildings up for bid, ten are Mission Revival-style barracks, one of which holds murals by artist Perren Gerber that depict post World War II military and civilian life while he was enlisted and lived on the base. The remaining 12 buildings include a former military jail that held soldiers who refused to deploy to Vietnam in 1968, indoor squash courts that required military officers to crawl through a four-foot tall door to enter and a Gothic, Tudoresque officer’s club that once housed a bar.

Although the Presidio Trust is hoping that multiple non-profit businesses will share the 30-acre area, the adaptive renovation of the historic buildings would leave renters with a large bill before they even move into the space.

The Trust expects any business taking over the space to rehabilitate and bring the buildings up to accessibility standards, install or restore utilities and even help pay for a new transit center at the end of an extended 29 Sunset Muni line.

The estimated total cost to restore the buildings back to their historical condition is “in the $200 million range,” said Josh Bagley, associate director for real estate development.

The Trust is not looking at bids solely from non-profit and non-commercial businesses. Under the minimum lease terms, commercial retail and office spaces, recreation areas and guest housing will also be considered.

“It wouldn’t have to be a non-profit because we’re looking for universities, organizations and joint partnerships,” Lisa Petrie, spokesperson for the Presidio Trust, said. “At this point we don’t want to exclude any possibility that might be qualified here.”

If proposals from organizations that the Trust approves of are unable to meet standards or do not have the right social or environmental mission in mind, Bagley said the Trust would “put it on the shelf until we are ready.”

However, every respondent tour has been filled to capacity and there have been over 600 requests for concept proposals downloaded from the Presidio Trust’s website, according to Petri.

A public tour of the buildings and community input on how the area should be used to promote social change will take place on April 28.


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People walk around Fort Winfield Scott on Monday, April 2, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

This story has been revised to include the date when responses to the request for concept proposals are due.

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