After years of speculation on how to develop the dilapidated New Mission Theater and the adjacent Giant Value building, two developers with deep pockets have emerged with a plan.
Oyster Development of San Francisco, funded by a Canadian investment group, plans to transform the Giant Value building at 2558 Mission St. into 95 market-rate housing units and 14,000 square feet of retail space.
Next door, Tim League, 42, the owner of the Texas-based Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, plans to develop a three-screen, 600-seat theater at the site of the New Mission Theater.
The properties, which are on the same lot, are currently going through an environmental review. If all goes according to plan, the San Francisco Planning Commission, the agency in charge of approving such projects, would hear both by November, and both would open by Christmas 2014, said Victor Marquez, a land-use attorney representing the developers.
Local entrepreneur Gus Murad currently owns the land, which he bought from City College for $4.3 million in 2005. His initial plan, to develop market-rate housing at the Giant Value site and a nightclub on the New Mission Theater site, fell apart after the economy tanked in 2008.
Last week developers introduced their plans to a supportive crowd of more than 100 people who gathered at the New Mission Theater. Among those in the crowd were Murad, staff from Supervisor David Campos’ office, residents, businesses owners, landlords, consultants and other Mission power brokers.
Santiago Ruiz, the executive director of Mission Neighborhood Center, is among those who support the development.
“I never thought that this community would ever find an investor who would be willing to infuse the type of funding that this would require in order to rehabilitate it,” Ruiz said. “I thought we were going to get stuck with this place as an eyesore for decades.”
It’s not like there weren’t interested parties.
According to Roberto Hernandez, a community liaison for the developers and a lifelong Mission resident, several companies had expressed interest in the site, including Walgreen’s and Facebook.
Ultimately he was convinced by the developers’ plans, he said, because of the unprecedented benefits the community will receive.
These include a possible $500,000 to fund a plaza on Bartlett Street; a dedication of land to the city so it can build up to 40 units of affordable housing; $1 million to rehabilitate the New Mission Theater, which is considered a city landmark; and about $800,000 in funding to community groups.
Unprecedented Land Allocation in the Mission
To comply with the city’s affordable housing requirement, the developers will give the Mayor’s Office of Housing a piece of land in the Mission where it can develop up to 40 affordable housing units, according to Marquez, the attorney.
Typically developers are required by law to dedicate 15 percent of their units to inclusionary housing or pay a fee that, once the project is completed, will go toward financing affordable housing elsewhere.
“This is the first time [a dedication of land has] ever been done in San Francisco,” Hernandez said. “It’s going to become the model for other communities in San Francisco.”
Information about the exact value and location of the land to be dedicated were not immediately available. The mayor’s office did not return repeated calls seeking comment.
Community organizers prefer the land allocation because it will go further to improve affordable housing in the Mission, Marquez said.
“That’s because the community wanted more units out of it,” Marquez said. “Onsite it would have been no more than 17; offsite you are going to get double.”
Neighborhood groups also netted about $800,000 from the developers.
At the beginning of last week’s meeting, Marquez read a list of organizations that, he said, will benefit from financial contributions by the developer. These include the Mexican Museum, Dolores Street Community Services, People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights, the Central American Resource Center, the Mission Neighborhood Centers and La Raza Centro Legal.
“It’s to give back to the community and be part of the community,” Marquez said.
The Mission Neighborhood Center, for example, will receive about $150,000 from the developers to help finance senior housing and a community center development at 24th and Harrison streets known as Casa De La Mision.
Community groups also support these projects because the developer has included them in the process, said Ruiz and other community organizers.
The fact that many longtime community organizations — some of whom opposed Murad’s original plan to develop market-rate housing — support the projects signals a change in attitude in the neighborhood, organizers said.
“If you look at the new development that has taken place on Mission and 15th streets, that is a major development that for years –for years– because of community opposition, was an eyesore. That is now changed,” Ruiz said. “That is part of the changing community. The attitude is that we do need jobs that are union.”
In addition to providing union construction jobs, Alamo Drafthouse has said it will hire 50 percent of its staff from the neighborhood.
The development was a clear winner at last week’s meeting.
Marquez told the crowd that if the theater site is not developed by Alamo Drafthouse, it will most likely become a nightclub. “Who wants a nightclub?” he asked.
One person raised her hand.
When Marquez asked who wanted a cinema complex, the rest of the crowd raised their hands in unison.
Reporter Noah Arroyo contributed to the reporting.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated an incorrect number of seats for the theater. Plans are for a 600-seat theater at the site of the New Mission Theater.