Forest City Development is erecting 88 rental units split between two separate buildings at the corner of 15th and Market Streets. Formerly a gas station, the new building will set aside 20 percent of its apartments as below market rate when it opens in the fall of 2014.
In the meantime the developer is seeking approval from the planning commission to allow a restaurant operator to seek a beer and wine liquor license for the site. The company intends to set aside 2,200 square feet for a locally-owned eatery.
It also needs city approval to lease out the remaining 4,000 square feet to a single operator who would then be tasked with lining up local food producers and a coffee purveyor to sublet portions of the space.
“We really want a mixed-use space. We also wanted restaurant capability if we decided to go ahead and pursue that,” Katie O’Brien, of Forest City Development, told Castro merchants at their meeting this morning (Thursday, December 5). “It is a bit of a chicken and an egg because we don’t have a tenant signed yet.”
Should a restauranteur want to move in, they would then need to acquire a liquor license on their own. It is possible that the owner of the restaurant could also oversee and operate the food hall.
As for the food hall concept, O’Brien likened it to a “small Ferry Building” similar to the Rockridge Market Hall in Oakland near the Rockridge BART station. The European-style marketplace is divided between such things as a deli, fishmonger, cheese shop, and a pasta stand.
“It is another great way to bring in smaller services,” said O’Brien, adding that not all of the sub-leases needed to go to food vendors but could include such things as a coffeehouse or a succulent stand.
With such a large space normally only affordable to a chain store, several members of the Castro Merchants, formerly known as the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro, voiced a desire to see language restricting the space from being leased in the future to a formula retailer. With that caveat, the group voted to back Forest City’s proposal before the planning commission.
The Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association has also voiced similar concerns that a chain store could one day move into the building. It has pointed to the example of when the now-closed Tower Records opened in the Market Noe Center up the street it was supposed to be temporary but became a permanent use. The space is now under construction to be a new CVS Pharmacy location.
Under rules adopted this year, any formula retailer that brings the number of chain stores within a 300-foot radius to 20 percent or greater would not be recommended for approval. Unless such a store had overwhelming support from the neighborhood, it is unlikely it would be approved by the planning commission.
Nonetheless, DTNA officials have proposed the city include a Notice of Special Restriction on Forest City’s conditional use permit that would require a certain number of tenants be using the store space. It plans to discuss the issue at its meeting this Monday night, December 9.
It has voiced support for the overall concept, writing in the latest DTNA newsletter that “if it all works out, we could be welcoming a new Market Square to our neighborhood. How (unconventionally) hip!”
Speaking before the Castro Merchants group, O’Brien said she was amenable to such restrictive language being added to the permit and would work with city planners and a land use attorney on crafting the appropriate wording.
She also insisted there would be “no formula retail” at the site.
“It’s a special neighborhood to me so it is important we get it right,” said O’Brien, who frequented nearby bars of the site when she was a college student at San Francisco State University.