Rejuvenating the Loin

viewerThe long-sketchy Tenderloin / mid-market area of San Francisco is under an intense period of renewal right now. Twitter’s decision to set up shop in the area along with the development efforts of the region’s biggest theatre company, ACT, has been helping to kickstart life in the neighborhood. Smaller businesses are popping up like trendy bakeries, candy shops and coffee stores. And more long standing arts organizations, such as The Exit Theatre and The Cutting Ball Theatre have helped to keep the neighborhood thrumming in a positive way.

But there’s still a long way to go before the beleaguered section of downtown San Francisco starts to truly take off. The efforts so far and the push for what lies ahead owe much to the energy and determination of Elvin Padilla, who for the last four years has been heading up the Tenderloin Economic Development Project (TEDP). Much of Elvin’s work has revolved around arts and culture initiatives — specifically, the development of an art and education center known as the 950 Center for the Performing Arts.

The main question right now is how the many vacant buildings in the neighborhood  — specifically, the properties on the 950 block of Market Street less the Crazy Horse strip club and The Warfield music venue —  will be developed. “We are reassembling our development team in anticipation of the properties being acquired – hopefully – by a friendly developer that will give us a chance to perform,” wrote Elvin in an email update about TEDP.

I emailed Elvin to ask him a few questions. My first was to ask him to define “friendly developer.” He responded:

“A friendly developer is first and foremost one that will invite TEDP and the to be formed Sponsoring Organization to enter into an agreement with them to buy (condo) approximately 75,000 square feet to build the art & education center.  Since this space will not generate any profit, most developers won’t even consider this invitation at all.”
Elvin can’t say for sure that finding such a generous-hearted developer is going to happen, but he considers this outcome “very likely.”
He added:
“I hope the outcome is a monumental shift in the currently demoralized physical and psychological landscape where the life-affirming celebration of arts as an integral part of our identity, in a neighborhood always dismissed as hopeless, becomes the new norm.  Also, this outcome will be protected through the ownership of permanently affordable space.”
I hope the tireless efforts of Elvin and his team pay off. On the other hand, I don’t think of developers as being the most altruistic of business people, especially in a town like San Francisco where there’s so much money to be made from every square foot of real estate. I have my fingers and toes crossed that the right partner will appear.

PS Elvin is going to be providing an overview of what’s happening in the neighborhood on Wednesday April 17 at 11am at 301 Eddy Street.


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  1. David Roche says

    Hmmmm— is the city not in the process of condemning properties for nonprofit arts redevelopment? That’s the usual procedure for urban renewal. Why would any for-profit developer take a chance on the neighborhood as it survives now? Supervisor Jane Kim is a dynamo – what’s her position on the current situation?