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SAN FRANCISCO-Forest City Enterprises is spending the next few months tearing down the non-historic “wings” of a former hospital complex here as it prepares to renovate its historic core and add space en route to a 161-unit rental community. The former Public Health Service Hospital is located at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge within the Presidio, a sprawling former army base that has been under redevelopment for more than a decade.

Forest City landed $67.5 million in construction financing for the estimated $108-million project in November, 18 months after it signed the related development agreement with the Presidio Trust. The demolition, which began in December, will take four months to complete. Completion of the renovation and new construction is slated for late 2010. Forest City hopes to achieve LEED-Gold certification for the project from the US Green Building Council.

Located near 15th Avenue and Lake Street, the hospital operated until 1981. Since that time, until recently, it has been used mostly as a canvass for graffiti artists, according to the Trust. The historic core of the hospital, which dates to the 1930s, totals about 250,000 square feet. The demolition of the 1950s additions totals about half that much space. Neither Forest City nor the Presidio Trust could be reached Friday for additional detail, such as the square footage of any new additions to the hospital and the townhomes that will be added to the site.

The Presidio was transferred to the National Park Service and made part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in 1994. The 1,500-acre site contains the infrastructure of a small community as well as expansive open space, including a 300-acre historic forest, and spectacular views. It comprises nearly six million square feet of buildings, including 469 historic structures.

The Presidio Trust was established in 1996 to make the Presidio economically self-sufficient by 2013. If it cannot achieve the goal, it may ultimately have to be liquidated.

Efforts to gain a new life for the hospital, the park’s largest historic building, began in 2003. The public planning process ended in spring 2007 when Forest City Residential was selected for its plan to convert the hospital structure to rental housing. Wachovia, RBS Citizens NA and the National Electrical Benefit Fund also are involved in the project by way of debt and equity contributions.

Per the development agreement, Forest City will remove the non-historic wings and convert the historic main hospital building into 154 one and two-bedroom apartments ranging from 400 to 1,500 square feet. A three-story addition will be added at the rear of the building and seven small townhomes will be added totaling about 16,000 square feet. The historic wood windows and brick and stone facades will be refurbished where possible and all new mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems will be added along with concrete shear walls.

Several other projects are in the works at the Presidio, which already is home to the $350-million, 850,000-square-foot Letterman Digital Arts Center, completed in 2005. The Walt Disney Family Foundation, a Presidio tenant since 2001, is rehabilitating the barracks in the Presidio’s Main Post for use as the Walt Disney Family Museum and Library. The project will include a children’s learning center with hands-on art programs, an extensive collection of artifacts and archival material, exhibits on animation and motion pictures, a research center for scholars, exhibits of art works influenced by Disney, a book store/gift shop, and a small café. The museum is expected to open to visitors in August 2009.

The Trust also is working toward the creation of a hotel at the Main Post, and for the rehabilitation of 12 other historic buildings totaling 144,000 square feet as it looks to increase revenue by increasing the number of public attractions. The Trust plans to rehabilitate the historic former Nurses Dormitory, located adjacent to the hospital, and repurpose it for workspaces, while the historic Montgomery Street Barracks that frame the Main Parade Grounds is slated to feature visitor-serving activities such as restaurants, galleries, and cultural institutions. In addition, a 1930s-era theatre, unused for more than a decade, will be rehabilitated and expanded for film and other theatrical performances, and the last of the Presidio’s historic residential neighborhoods to be worked on, 11 historic residences along Wyman Avenue, will be rehabilitated and leased.

New construction also is planned. Near the Main Post, Gap Inc. founder Don Fisher has plans for a contemporary art museum. Finding the right site project has been an issue. The proposed development site was recently moved further west of the Main Post and the project redesigned due to concerns about how it would fit in with the historic buildings. The Presidio Trust will present a formal analysis of the plan in January. After a 45-day public comment period, the proposal will go before the governing board for consideration, most likely in the spring.

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