Law school bets on building academic village in SF’s Tenderloin

650-unit Academe at 198 draws students from six schools, with occupancy at 60%

Law School Bets on Building Academic Village in SF
University of California College of Law Chancellor & Dean David Faigman with 198 McAllister Street, San Francisco (Perkins&Will USC)

Public university housing offers a boon to San Francisco’s drug-addled Tenderloin.

The UC College of the Law SF, which last summer opened its 14-story, 650-unit Academe at 198 at 198 McAllister Street, reports 60-percent occupancy, the San Francisco Standard reported.

The complex, a block from the worst drug corner in the city, is critical to the university’s plan to remake the neighborhood, now the hub for homelessness and drugs.

It has been nearly four years since the law school and local residents sued the city, accusing it of abandoning the neighborhood to growing homelessness and crime.

Now the complex is drawing UC Law students, as well as students from UCSF, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, San Francisco State University, University of San Francisco and other schools. A 232-square-foot “efficiency” studio rents for $2,200 a month.

Academe at 198 is part of a broader plan to bring thousands of students from universities across the region into what UC Law dubs an “Academic Village.”

The project began in 2020 with the construction of the Cotchett Law Center atop a former parking lot at 333 Golden Gate Avenue. 

Last spring, the former UC Hastings built Academe at 198 with student housing, plus retail and classrooms, which opened in August. It replaced a concrete classroom building.

The goal for the 356,000-square-foot apartment building: to provide student housing for six college campuses and boost neighborhood safety, which fell during the pandemic, by bringing foot traffic to the street.

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It includes 8,000 square feet of shops and restaurants and 50,000 square feet of academic space, including classrooms, a 400-seat auditorium and trial and appellate courtrooms for the school. It has a fitness center, dog park, study rooms, lounges, communal kitchens and bike storage. 

Although the complex is still 40 percent vacant, UC Law SF Chief Operating Officer Rhiannon Bailard said the school is “very optimistic” about getting to 100 percent occupancy in the next academic year.

With the completion of Academe at 198, the university plans to move ahead on the $90 million renovation of a century-old 252-unit tower at 100 McAllister Street.

Between the nine-story Academe at 198 and the 28-story tower, the school will bring its housing units to nearly 730, with beds for more than 1,000 students. The target completion is 2028. 

The last phase will be the law school’s redevelopment of the old union hall for Unite Here Local 2, which represents hotel and restaurant workers. The school will build 250 to 400 workforce housing units on parcels the union owns at 201-247 Golden Gate Avenue.

The key to getting the Academic Village underway is its marketing to students from multiple universities. To pay for Academe at 198, UC Law SF secured $364 million in tax-exempt bond financing, to be repaid by revenue from the project.

“Had this been only for the law school, we would have met much more skepticism trying to finance this project,” David Seward, chief financial officer of the university, told The Standard.

— Dana Bartholomew

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