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SF Rec & Parks breaks ground on $14 million Geneva Car Barn & Powerhouse Renovation

Photo courtesy of San Francisco Recreation and Park Department

The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department celebrated the groundbreaking of the $14 million Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse renovation today, together with CAST, San Francisco Arts Commission, San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development, San Francisco Public Works, Friends of the Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse, and Performing Arts Workshop. The Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse (also known as the Car Barn) will become the latest addition of recreation space in Excelsior neighborhood.

“The Geneva Car Barn is an historical landmark in a part of the City that doesn’t always get its fair share. I was proud to fight for $3.5 million in state funds to help complete the first phase of its rehabilitation,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee. “Our investment in this neighborhood means generations of local talent will have a place to grow and showcase their work.”

Currently, the Car Barn is comprised of two adjoining structures: a two-story office building containing approximately 13,000 square feet of space that is “the Car Barn” and a single-story approximately 3,000 square feet of space that is “the Powerhouse”. The $14 million will fund the first phase of the renovation of the Powerhouse area. The improvements include seismic upgrade, installation of modern utility systems, the restoration of historic features, hazardous materials remediation, increase access to meet American Disability Act (ADA) standards, streetscape improvements, improved entrance, new roof and restored windows, as well as new floor with radiant heating. The renovation will achieve a LEED Gold Standard, and is expected to be completed by early 2019.

“When this project is completed, it will be the centerpiece of the community, offering a place where our youth and families can congregate in a healthy, productive and positive way,” said Mayor Mark Farrell. “The neighborhood has been eagerly awaiting this project and I am grateful for all the partners who helped lead this process throughout the years. Today marks the start of an exciting new future in the Excelsior.”

While the Car Barn is under the jurisdiction of SF Rec & Parks, the renovation and activation of the space is part of a multi-agency coalition which includes the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD), the Office of District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai, and the San Francisco Arts

Commission. The renovation is made possible by the 2012 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond Parks Bond, State funding allocated by District 19 Assemblyman Phil Ting, general fund secured by former District 11 Supervisor John Avalos and current District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai, and Historic Preservation and New Market Tax Credit Funds and grant funding through the partnership with the Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST).

“The Geneva Car Barn renovation is the result of 20 years of advocacy work and a strong partnership between the community, Recreation and Parks, and the Mayor’s Office,” said District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai whose district includes the Car Barn. “This project will transform unused, blighted public property into community serving space, creating the premiere performing arts education center in San Francisco.”

“We are thrilled to break ground on this project and transform the historic Car Barn into an artistic and recreational hub for a community of young creators and performers,” said Phil Ginsburg, SF Rec & Parks General Manager. “By revitalizing this San Francisco landmark, we are preserving our past while investing in our future. Alongside the new Geneva Community Garden, we are looking at one of the best neighborhoods in the City, right here in District 11.”

Since 2008, after extensive City planning and community input, the Car Barn has been identified as a key element of the economic development of the Balboa Park Station in the Balboa Station Area Transit Oriented Development as presented by the City’s Planning Department. The Plan has indicated that the restoration of the Car Barn “will serve as an anchor for the revitalization of the entire Transit Station Neighborhood.”

“The rebirth of the Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse not only will ensure the preservation of this historic property, but it also will serve the next generations of San Francisco residents and visitors as an arts hub and help spark a neighborhood renaissance,” said San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, whose department is providing construction management services for the project.

Once the renovation is complete, the Powerhouse will host a variety of youth arts classes in dance, theater, music, spoken word, and more. The programming will be provided by Performing Arts Workshop (The Workshop), a highly-respected arts education nonprofit that has been serving

children and teens in San Francisco for more than 52 years. The Workshop will also helm rental of the Powerhouse for broad use by the community for meetings, events, rehearsals, performances, arts classes for adults, and exhibitions.

“Though it was built to house machinery, this space feels like it was destined to be a performing arts center in its second life. The sheer volume of the Powerhouse is breathtaking, and at first look we hoped immediately that this would be our future home. As an organization with deep roots in San Francisco, we resonate with the Powerhouse’s rich history,” said Emily Garvie, Executive Director of Performing Arts Workshop. “And, as a youth-serving organization, we are thrilled to be in this district with so many children and families. It’s an honor to take the baton in the final lap from the City and community, which has been fighting for this restoration for almost 30 years.”

In addition, through partnership with CAST, the Department has received new market and historic preservation tax credits partnering to provide capital funding for the Car Barn, as a result, CAST will serve as a partner to manage the space.

“We are excited about our Geneva Car Barn collaboration with the Recreation and Park Department and Performing Arts Workshop in helping to revitalize a historic space for arts and education in the heart of the Excelsior,” said Moy Eng, Executive Director of CAST.

CAST was founded on the belief that the arts drive strong, vibrant, diverse communities. CAST secures space and works with community arts organizations to help develop and strengthen their financial and organizational capacity to purchase permanent facilities and navigate complex real estate issues. Through CAST, San Francisco as well as other major metropolitan cities will remain a vibrant and thriving home for arts organizations that will foster creativity, community participation, economic development and neighborhood well-being.

Located in District 11, Geneva Car Barn and Powerhouse is the last physical reminder of the City’s first electric railway system. First owned by private railway companies and then by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA), it was occupied until 1989, at which time it was heavily damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake. When it was scheduled to be demolished in 1998, the community organized to convince then Mayor Willie Brown to save the building. In 2004, ownership was transferred to SF Rec and Park with the goal of creating a recreational space for youth and families, especially for arts-related youth development. In 2010, the Car Barn and Powerhouse was recognized as a historic landmark by the National Register of Historic Places.

“The ground breaking for the Powerhouse is a victory for the children, youth and families of the OMI and Excelsior neighborhoods. The Friends of the Geneva Office Building and Powerhouse has worked for nearly 20 years on this project, and our day has finally come,” said Dan Weaver, long-time community and park advocate in District 11.

-Text by RPD Communications, San Francisco Recreation and Park

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