Forge wants to turn SF’s historic Humboldt Bank Building into homes

Firm plans to spend $70M to make the Beaux Arts tower “the poster child for conversions”

Forge Wants to Turn SF’s Humboldt Bank Building Into Homes
Forge Development Partners CEO Richard Hannum and the Humboldt Bank Building at 785 Market Street in San Francisco (Google Maps, Forge)

San Francisco’s Humboldt Bank Building, a symbol of rebirth after the 1906 earthquake, may help lead the city’s rebound after the pandemic.

Forge Development Partners, based in the city, has pitched a plan to convert the 116-year-old Beaux Arts office tower into 120 apartments at 785 Market Street, in Mid-Market, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“I think it’s the poster child for conversions,” Richard Hannum, founder of Forge and a proponent of office-to-residential conversions, told the newspaper. “It’s exactly the right building.”

Forge Development said it plans to spend $70 million to acquire and convert the 19-story, 100,000-square-foot tower.  

The building is owned by Stockton Street Properties, according to a Chronicle property database. Also mentioned were Invesco Advisers and Art Fong, a retired senior director for Invesco, of San Francisco.

Forge aims to begin the Gensler-designed conversion this year and usher in residents by 2025. Apartments would be affordable to middle-income renters earning between $110,000 to $150,000 for a two-person household, Hannum said. 

Plans call to preserve the building’s historic facade and ground-floor shops now occupied by Men’s Wearhouse, and the ornate, Baroque-style dome. 

The project, designed by Gensler, would be expedited by San Francisco’s efforts to spur office-to-home conversions after a shift to remote work led to a 35.9 percent office vacancy and boarded up stores on the ground floor.

Legislation led by Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Aaron Peskin reduced requirements for Downtown conversions to speed the process and cut developers’ costs. Breed is also placing a measure on the March ballot to waive a 6 percent transfer tax on converted buildings.

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Supervisor Matt Dorsey is proposing legislation that exempts conversions from developer fees. More than one in 10 historic office buildings in Downtown San Francisco could be converted into homes, according to a study.

The granite and marble Humboldt Bank Building, designed by Frederick Meyer, was partly built when the 1906 earthquake leveled much of the city. Forced to begin from scratch, he redesigned and rebuilt the tower with “the most advanced structural system available,” according to a San Francisco Architectural Heritage survey.

Its ceiling heights, double-hung windows and small floors will combine to make for an elegant residential complex, according to consultant Alan Mark, who has worked on conversion projects in San Francisco.

“It’s hard to think of a building with such character and sense of history that has been converted,” Mark told the Chronicle. “It reminds me of some of the grand old New York apartment buildings. It’s breathtaking.”

The project is the second Market Street office building headed for conversion. Group i won 

approvals to turn the Warfield Building at 988 Market Street into 45 apartments.

While most projects in San Francisco are on hold, Forge recently completed 240 units at 361 Turk Street and 145 Leavenworth Street. The company also just announced plans to build 90 apartments at 468 Turk Street affordable to median income households.

“My team is long on San Francisco,” Hannum told the Chronicle. “We are putting a lot of money into the city right now.”

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