SF’s Century-old One Sansome Street to get $20M revamp

Owner of San Francisco office tower and conservatory sees food, drink, hospitality as key to Financial District resurgence

Barker Pacific Group's Michael Barker with 1 Sansome St (DES Architects + Engineers, Wikipedia, USC)
Barker Pacific Group's Michael Barker with 1 Sansome St (DES Architects + Engineers, Wikipedia, USC)

Barker Pacific Group is making a $20-million bet on One Sansome Street in Downtown San Francisco.

The owner of the 500-foot-tall skyscraper and its century-old conservatory is investing in a new bar, restaurant and private event space to bring new life to the flagging stretch of the Financial District, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Renovations were planned before the coronavirus pandemic, but have taken on a new light after Citibank, anchor of the 42-story tower, vacated five floors when its lease ended. Foot traffic, at a standstill during the shutdown, remains sluggish.

The head of Barker Pacific has worked in the city for 40 years and believes in another resurgence.

“We’ve had some rough times, and we’ve had some boom times,” Michael Barker, CEO of Barker Pacific, told the newspaper. “And I think the uptick is coming.”

Barker Pacific Group, based in Downtown Los Angeles, and New Jersey-based PGIM, bought Sansome One out of foreclosure in 2010, with two floors vacated by defunct bank Bear Stearns.

They’ve since invested more than $100 million in the building, which was fully leased by 2015 during an economy that came out swinging after the recession.

Their new bet on Downtown San Francisco joins a $250-million renovation planned at the Transamerica Pyramid. Both projects see good food, drinks and hospitality as the key to bringing back office workers and visitors.

Last fall, brokerage firm Newmark took up the top 32,000 square feet of the tower, which includes a penthouse bar. The company also took over leasing for One Sansome.

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A half-dozen smaller tenants have also signed new leases, including consultancy Egon Zehnder, investment company HIG Capital and law firm Pachulski, Stang, Ziehl & Jones. Rents at the top floors, with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, now fetch $100 per square foot, near the top of the city’s market.

Michael Brown, vice chairman of Newmark, said One Sansome’s transformation will be “unlike anything the market currently offers.”

Its columned granite conservatory, once the home of Anglo and London Paris National Bank, was built in 1910.

It will host the new restaurant, bar and private event space led by Phil Spiegel, a veteran of the Julia Morgan Ballroom and the Merchants Exchange Club, and now head of the newly formed Please Fidi.

It will be called Holbrook House, expected to open early next year, and serve upscale American food. The event space will hold around 2,000 people, making it an alternative for people who don’t want to be in hotels.

Spiegel imagines future commuters witnessing a space “like you’re looking at Gatsby’s mansion, and there’s a party going on and you’re wondering what’s happening. And you’re looking through, you’re seeing this beautiful space, and you’re seeing activity, and it’s fun, and it’s active.

“We are embracing the Financial District,” Spiegel said. “It’s going to be where people drink martinis and sip Champagne and feel very good about it. We want the restaurant and bar to match the opulence of the building.”

[San Francisco Chronicle] – Dana Bartholomew