News Clipping Academic Achievement
April 21, 2003

San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Gardens redevelopment area already boasts several major tourist attractions, including the Museum of Modern Art, Center for the Arts, Zeum children’s museum, Metreon entertainment center and California Historical Society. In addition, plans are well along for the Jewish Museum, Mexican Museum and Museum of the African Diaspora.

Now another attraction has revealed it will move to the area, at least for awhile. The California Academy of Sciences, a long-time feature of Golden Gate Park, has signed a four-year lease for a 6-story, 204k sf building at 875 Howard St. Located between 4th and 5th streets, across the street from the upcoming extension of Moscone Convention Center, the former Emporium warehouse will serve as the temporary home for the Academy’s exhibits, scientific collections, research scientists and administrative facilities while a new facility is built in the park.

The academy will use the basement and first two floors for a 90k-gallon replacement for the popular Steinhart Aquarium along with a selection of other natural science exhibits. The upper floors will hold offices, research and storage space and possibly additional exhibit halls.

The lease, which was negotiated on behalf of the academy by Dan Mihalovich of Mihalovich Partners, includes renewal options in case the park construction project takes longer than projected. The permanent facility, designed by Pritzer Prize winner Renzo Piano in collaboration with San Francisco’s Gordon H Chong & Partners, will feature a heavily landscaped “living roof” intended as an extension of the academy’s exhibits.

Jon Wittemyer, senior managing director of Insignia/ESG’s San Francisco office, represented the landlord of 875 Howard in the transaction. The property is owned by IRP Yerba Buena Associates, a joint venture of Fidelity Partners and ING Realty that acquired it during the height of the dot-com boom. Internet consulting firm marchFirst signed a lease for the building in late 2000 but went bankrupt before tenant improvements were completed. The building has remained vacant since then.

While financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, the San Francisco Chronicle estimates the annual rent in the $17-$20/sf range. The academy plans to take occupancy in December.

In other San Francisco deals, Peter Sullivan Associates Commercial Real Estate paid a reported $16 mil for a 110k sf building at 733 Front St. The seller was Saint Francis Associates LP. The deal, which came in at nearly $4 mil below asking, works out to $145/sf, still a good price these days for a completely empty building outside the heart of the Financial District.

Near Union Square, OSF Holdings sold a 23k sf residential hotel at 180 O’Farrell St. to a private investment group known as 180-190 O’Farrell LLC for $4.1 mil, or $178/sf. The un-reinforced masonry building, which is next door to Macy’s, must be retrofitted by Feb. 2004 to meet a city requirement. Julie Taylor of GVA Whitney Cressman not only represented the seller in the transaction but also was contracted by the buyer to lease 3.2k sf of ground-floor retail space.

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