Redstone building. Photo by Julian Mark

The Mission Economic Development Agency and the tenants of the historic Redstone building are scrambling to come up with $7 million in short order so it can finalize the purchase of the 104-year-old historic building at 16th and Capp — a deal that could require $25 million.

The deal between MEDA and the building’s landlord, David Lucchesi, is currently in escrow, which concludes in December. Feliciano Vera, a senior project manager with MEDA, said that the nonprofit has $250,000 down on the property, and requires $7 million to “close a financing gap” to purchase the building.

Lucchesi’s asking price is “significantly higher,” Vera said, although he declined to disclose the amount. Multiple tenants in July, however, pegged the price at around $25 million. It is unclear if aspiring buyers other than MEDA are competing for the building. According to Vera, others have shown interest in the past — he said MEDA became interested last year when the organization became aware a cash buyer was interested in the building. Sources familiar to the deal said multiple private offers have been made on the building. 

While MEDA’s is not a profit-seek endeavor, another potential buyer could turn the building into office space.

Vera said the $7 million is required by mid-October, which is when MEDA will know whether it is in a position to close the deal. “Our due diligence period ends in October, at which point we need to make a determination about the feasibility of the overall deal,” Vera later said in an email. 

If and when the building is purchased, Vera said, bringing it up to code will require at least an additional $9 million, as the structure requires seismic improvements along with plumbing and electrical work. Moreover, it needs to work to become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

That $9 million estimate “is really a conservative figure — it can go up from there,” Vera said. “Our concern is what we don’t know.”

“It’s quite an undertaking,” he added, “in terms of making sure the building is safe and accessible to everyone.”

The 55,000-square-foot building began as a hub for labor unions, but now is home to 35 tenants ranging from a community radio station to artists to nonprofits that advocate for the homeless and transgender communities. This eccentric, anachronistic crew views the Redstone as far more than just a place of business.

“This is our house — we’ve been here for 11 years,” Jessy D’Santos of El/La Para TransLatinas told some 40 people gathered at the Lab, an artist space in the Redstone building, Wednesday night to announce the fundraising blitz. “We are here and ready for this fight.”

Paul Boden stands in his office on the second floor of the Redstone building. Photo by Julian Mark

The Redstone tenants seeking to amass $20,000 through a GoFundMe campaign. MEDA is looking to raise seriously more via “actively exploring government and philanthropic financing options” to come up with the millions it needs to preserve this building. Spending top dollar for a crumbling building inhabited by social justice and artistic tenants isn’t intended to be a moneymaking endeavor. Rather, MEDA and the building’s tenants view this potential move as a means of preserving a vital remnant of the neighborhood’s character.

On Wednesday evening, while gathered in the Lab’s gallery space, the building’s tenants and supporters of the cause sipped spirits and munched on vegan stew. Some of the building’s longtime tenants, like Paul Boden of the Western Regional Advocacy Project, spoke passionately.

“The thing about this building is it’s a place for poor people’s organizations that don’t get the … government money — that Bank of America ain’t gonna write a freakin’ grant to,” he said, seeming to fight back tears. “This is a place we can afford to be in.”

Dena Beard, the director of the Lab, told the audience that spreading the word about their endeavor will be essential to its success: “These next few weeks will be critical.”

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Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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  1. Why can’t MEDA just save the millions and instead relocate these tenants to a safe, compassionate and up to code facility? Does it absolutely have to be this enormous and unsafe building? Or is this more about making a point rather than helping people?

  2. The City should allow MEDA — if they’re the eventual purchaser — to raise the final $7 Million (or at least a significant chunk of it) by selling off the surplus air rights (including any additional height from applying the State Density Bonus Law) above the Redstone Labor Temple to Maximus so they can add a few more stories to their “Monster in the Mission” project (it’s right across the street after all) and require MEDA to withdraw their opposition to that project and actively advocate for its speedy entitlement and construction.

    That would be a poetically appropriate win-win scenario.
    We’d get that long-stalled project going (with its much-needed significant amounts of housing) and it wouldn’t cost the taxpayers a dime?!

  3. It’s a little hard to support a fundraising drive if you don’t know the real terms. Purchase price, financing, renovations, rent roll? Because right now it sounds like a boondoggle leading to a hoped-for city bailout.