By NICHOLAS KUSNETZ

Anthony’s Cookies has opened. The sign for Urban Burger is up. With a liquor license here and a pending sale there, it must be spring. Or at least there are signs of movement on the Valencia Street corridor. Maybe.

The space at 1270 Valencia has been empty for years.

The space at 1270 Valencia has been empty for years.

So far, not one of the empty properties has been bought or rented since Mission Loc@l published a story more than a month ago investigating the vacancies between Duboce and Cesar Chavez.

Along the corridor, Mission Loc@l counted 32 storefronts that appear closed. Among these, seven are Soon to Bes, as in soon to be a café, restaurant or shop. Four appear to be having permit palpitations, meaning there could be life because someone has pulled permits for work, and 10 are available either for rent or for sale. Others on our map range from legal difficulties—Problemas!—to simply being off the market.

Local artist John Ramirez sees opportunity in some of those empty storefronts. He wants to show his work—which features spindly, hanging armatures—in the windows. On top of simply looking nice, he said, filling empty windows could help business by raising interest in the neighborhood.

“You see vacant storefronts, and who wants to see that?” he asked.

Ramirez has spoken with local businessmen and has set up an appointment with one realtor, he said. His work is on display in the window of his studio on 20th Street, just off Valencia and next to the vacant space formerly occupied by La Rondalla. Mark Kaplan, a broker with Rockwell Properties, said the past month has shown a more active landscape.

“Things have heated up a bit, and people are at least making decisions,” he said. Recently, Kaplan had five appointments in one day with clients interested in leasing property. That, he said, was an unusually high number.

A man who calls himself Wolf has camped out in front of 1132.

A man who calls himself Wolf has camped out in front of 1132.

There is a pending sale at 1169 Valencia, and one of Kaplan’s properties was rented within a month or so of going on the market. That space, at 1043 Valencia, is in a new building that has no street-front space and therefore was not included in Mission Loc@l’s count.

Aside from these two transactions, there are only small signs, and not everyone shares Kaplan’s optimism.

“In the Mission we’re not seeing any sales activity,” said Clinton Textor, an agent with Marcus and Millichap who deals mainly with sales. Textor said that citywide, the market remains slow and rents are still falling. And on the downside, Architectural Elements at 573 Valencia is on the verge of closing so is likely to be on our Empties list next month. Or, someone with a great need for 2,500 sq. ft. could call 861-5890 and rent it before we do our next update.

Casa Bonampak took advantage of those falling prices and snagged a good deal at 1051, the earlier location of Beadissimo. So, it’s soon to be—the boxes are being unpacked—occupied.

Three spaces on the street have been stuck in legal limbo since the beginning of the year, when the tenant for each space, Maher Muhawieh, vanished, according to the owner of two spaces and a contractor at the other.

Two companies that did work on the spaces—at 1136, 1132 and 758 Valencia—are claiming tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid fees, according to court documents and liens, though Muhawieh may not be responsible for all that money.

Mission Loc@l was unable to contact Muhawieh, who is also a member of the company opening Urban Burger at 581 Valencia, between 16th and 17th streets.

The company managing 1132 and 1136 Valencia, Bay West Properties, is trying to sort out the pending lawsuit.

Mission Loc@l was unable to reach the owners of 758, which was to become a restaurant named Grub.

The architect Toshi Kasai of Naylor & Chu Architects, who was hired to design the store, said work was about 80 percent done before Muhawieh disappeared. Kasai said he is unsure what will happen now.

Just down the block from 758 is another property that has sat unchanged for months, but it is a Soon to Be. Ashwin Navin, who co-founded BitTorrent and used to do corporate development for Yahoo, said he plans to open a co-working space at 780 Valencia that would be “a physical environment conducive to innovation, collaboration and company formation,” according to his blog.

Navin bought 780 from New College last year, but said it will be another few months before anything happens.

While little has changed on Valencia, further investigation has uncovered more details about a number of the properties. There’s a new addition as well, because Suriya Thai was evicted from its space.

How to Read the Map

Mission Loc@l has tried to slice and dice the stories behind Valencia’s empty storefronts. Month by month, we hope each will move up from the farthest from opening—Problemas—to Soon to Be and finally Open!

As of Thursday, April 16, 2009, this is where Valencia’s 32 Empties stand. There’s more information on the map. If you hear of news, let us know. Also, if you have any ideas for what the neighborhood needs, let our readers know—in the comment section or at staff@missionlocal.org and we will post.

UPDATE: Since publication of this story, Mission Loc@l has spoken with Muhawieh and learned more about the properties he has invested in. He said he is not a tenant in Zaytoon and that he is planning on returning 1132 Valencia to the owner. Mission Loc@l has been unable to get in touch with Bay West Properties, the building manager. Muhawieh’s only association with Urban Burger was to help the owners buy the building, and both he and others involved with the deal have said Muhawieh is not involved in the business itself. As for Grub, it’s chugging along, he says, waiting for some work by PG&E and some financing, which he said he has secured. He hopes to open it mid-summer. More details to come…

Open for Biz0
Soon to Be: Something’s coming, something good … we hope … a cafe, offices, a retail store:  7
Renovating: There’s movement … hammers and nails … but we’re not sure what they’re building:  2
Permit Palpitations: Some or many permits have been pulled:  4
Promise Pending: A category for Charles Phan and his promises to reopen at  Slanted Door’s roots:  3
For Rent: Visit, look at it, rent it. Or fantasize. What would you like to see here?:  5
For Sale: Own your own Mission Storefront space. Ditto on fantasies:  5
Vacant With No Apparent Plans: Owners without plans. Give them some ideas:  2
Problemas! Oy Vey! Lawyers involved … tenants who have vanished. Sightings?: 4
TOTAL:  32

Scott Moreland and Lydia Chávez contributed to this project.

Check out our map for the details.