For years, whenever developer Michael Cohen would stop at Zuni Café on Market Street, he would notice the site across the street: a single-story retail strip, a union hall that had seen better days, a run-down SRO hotel and a “sea of parking.”
It was around 2015 when he finally inquired about the site, which was owned by Local 38 Plumber and Steamfitters and its related pension funds. His timing was fortuitous: The union planned to issue a request for qualifications seeking a development partner for the 2.8-acre site.
“You don’t see many soft sites in the downtown corridor of San Francisco of that scale — ever,” Cohen said. “To have almost three acres of surface parking lots is very unique, and it was almost somewhat hidden.”
Strada Investment Group, where Cohen is founding partner, won the solicitation and the Brady Block was born.
But it wouldn’t be easy. There was a ground lease to negotiate. A new union hall to build before anything else. A BART tunnel running underneath.
The city was also beginning work on its Hub Plan, with the goal of upzoning the area around Market Street and Van Ness Avenue. When the city asked if Strada wanted its project considered for the plan, Cohen declined, in part because the BART tunnel limited the building load.
Strada proceeded to entitle the site based on a master plan created by David Baker Architects. The plan included:
- A new 32,000-square-foot union hall, which would replace a two-story structure built in 1923 as a Moose Club.
- 1 Brady St., a 190-unit market-rate apartment building known as The Brady, which included the renovation of the historic retail bays facing Market.
- 53 Colton St., 96 units of supportive housing for formerly homeless residents, known as Jazzie Collins Apartments.
- 1629 Market St., a 185-unit market-rate apartment building known that will be part of The Brady.
- 1125 Stevenson St., a 64-unit market-rate apartment also part of The Brady.
- Renovation of the existing Civic Center Hotel at 1611 Market St. into 60 residential units.
The vision for the market-rate residential, Cohen said, was to build a “deconstructed high-rise,” complete with amenities found in buildings with more stature, including roof decks, co-working spaces and lounges.
Of the 595 total residential units, 103 would be affordable and 96 would serve formerly homeless residents, with Jazzie Collins operated by HomeRise. All would share a block and surround a private plaza. Cohen likened it to a “functioning urban village.”
“It was truly a masterpiece in diplomacy and visioning,” said David Baker, the architecture firm’s founding principal.
Construction on the first phase started in June 2020 — yes, three months after the pandemic was declared — but Strada didn’t balk. It had already secured the financing and was committed.
The union hall was finished at the end of 2021, with the first two market-rate buildings and the supportive housing delivered last year. Leasing started strong, Cohen said, but slowed somewhat this winter. He declined to provide specifics.
Construction on the third market-rate building and the plaza are underway, with completion scheduled for early 2024.
The last phase is the renovation of the Civic Center Hotel, which was not financed as part of the first phase. Cohen declined to say whether the math works on the project.
“Historic renovation projects are especially challenging and often especially expensive,” he said. “We’re evaluating a variety of options to figure out the highest and best use that is feasible and also accretive of the rest of the project.”
He said closing the hotel and opening the supportive housing has already improved street conditions. The success of nearby projects Fifteen Fifty and the Chorus have also helped.
Baker, the master planner, heralded the transformation of the underutilized site, with its parking and tiny alleyways.
“It’s the type of thing there needs to be more of.”
About the Brady Block
- Address: 1600 block of Market Street, San Francisco
- Developer: Strada Investment Group
- Landowner: UA Local 38 Plumbers, Steamfitters and HVAC/R
- Size: Roughly 3 acres
- Components: Four new buildings, a new union hall and planned renovation of the Civic Center Hotel
- Development costs: $300 million
- Master plan: David Baker Architects
- Landscape architect: CMG Landscape Architecture
- Other architects: Kennerly Architecture & Planning
- General contractor: Suffolk Construction
Read the full article: Real Estate Deals: Strada's Brady Block in San Francisco a ‘masterpiece in diplomacy and visioning’ in the San Francisco Business Times.