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SAN FRANCISCO-A mix of office and for-sale residential units is the latest idea for reuse of the historic armory building that covers a full block at 14th and Mission streets. The proposal is estimated as the 10th for the property since the National Guard abandoned the 123,000-sf brick fortress in 1971.

The owner, Alpha LLC, has formed Mission Armory Preservation Partners LLC to breathe life into the long-vacant structure completed in 1914. The proposal calls for 169 condominiums, including eight penthouse units that would rise above the existing roofline, and about 30,000 sf of multi-use space.

Brett Gladstone, a land-use attorney representing Alpha, tells GlobeSt.com the condominium units are necessary in order to make the project financially feasible. The sale of the units would help offset the estimated $10-million cost of the seismic and restoration work and the fact that the multi-use space won’t generate tremendous revenue, he said.

“We’re not sure demand is there in that neighborhood for that amount of office space and [local interest groups] would prefer community-oriented uses,” Gladstone says. “We see it being used by a combination of non-profits and for-profits, possibly for office space but more likely storage space and community facilities.”

One half of the armory is five floors of office space and the other half is the one-time drill court, a big empty space with an 85-foot-high ceiling that was used by the National Guard to run military drills and, after that, as a boxing arena. The proposal calls for the lower floors of the office side of the building to become the multi-use space and for the upper three floors to become for-sale residential units. Two additional floors would be built above the existing roofline to house the penthouse units, but the extra levels would be set back from the roofline.

On the other side, a new multi-story residential building with a circular interior courtyard would be built within the existing walls of the drill court. The roof of the drill court would be removed, leaving only the historic trusses. Gladstone says the building-within-a-building idea has been done before in San Francisco, with the Oriental Warehouse in the Rincon Hill area of San Francisco. A new residential building was built within the walls of the warehouse, the roof of which was destroyed in a fire.

The proposal requires approval from the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board, some of which have reservations about the penthouse portion of the proposal, followed by the Planning Commission and then the Board of Supervisors. Gladstone says he expects the issue to be in front of the Planning Commission in the spring.

Alpha LLC was the lender on the building for the previous owner, and did not plan on taking the building back, Gladstone says. “[The borrower] was planning to turn it into a computer server farm but the deal financially fell apart and the lender took back the property in lieu of foreclosure,” he says. “To see it redeveloped, Alpha started Mission Armory Preservation Partners and hired a development team that includes Gladstone’s firm, Gladstone Associates, and Andres Grechi, design director for MBH Architects.

“Many people have come along with potential offers, especially in the last two years, but every time they look at the economics of a rehab, they don’t find it to be feasible,” Gladstone says. “The only value per sf that’s high enough to pay their costs of rehab is housing.”

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