Thrive Capital buys historic firehouse in SF’s Jackson Square

Joshua Kushner of New York real estate family pays $9M for office building Engine No. 1

Thrive's Joshua Kushner; property & aerial view of 451 Pacific Avenue (Getty, Loopnet, Gioogle Maps, Linkedin)
Thrive's Joshua Kushner; property & aerial view of 451 Pacific Avenue (Getty, Loopnet, Gioogle Maps, Linkedin)

Thrive Capital, founded by the brother of former presidential advisor Jared Kushner, has bought a century-old building in San Francisco’s Jackson Square for $9 million.

The New York-based venture capital firm led by Joshua Kushner purchased the historic Engine No. 1 firehouse building at 451 Pacific Avenue, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, citing multiple unidentified sources. 

The seller of the 10,300-square-foot office building was Michael Birch and his wife, Xochi, who own and operate the Battery, a private social club and luxury hotel a block away. The couple are co-founders of social network Bebo, which was acquired by AOL in 2008.

The $9 million deal for the firehouse works out to $874 per square foot.

The Birches bought the two-story, brick-and-timber building in 2020 for $12.8 million, or $1,243 per square foot. The property, built in 1908, replaced a firehouse destroyed in the 1906 earthquake.

While LoopNet puts its size at 10,300 square feet, the Chronicle pegged it at 7,000 square feet, which would put its recent sale price at $1,286 per square foot

It’s not clear if Thrive, which invests in internet, software and tech-enabled firms, has an office in San Francisco. An unidentified source told the Chronicle the company is working to lease a temporary office until planned renovations at the Jackson Square property are completed.

Joshua Kushner, son of real estate developer New York-based Charles Kushner and brother of Jared Kushner, son-in-law and former senior adviser to President Donald Trump, founded the firm in 2010.

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A “market participant” told the newspaper it would make sense for Thrive to locate in Jackson Square, where former Apple designer Jony Ive has bought a half dozen buildings on a single block. 

In February, an affiliate of Ive’s LoveFrom bought the 35,200-square-foot Little Fox Theatre building at 535 Pacific Avenue for $59.7 million, or $1,695 per square foot, above the going rate for commercial properties in Jackson Square.

A report by the Information last month linked Thrive to Ive and the Emerson Collective, the philanthropic organization founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

Last year, Ive reportedly joined forces with OpenAI founder Sam Altman to build an artificial intelligence device dubbed the “iPhone of AI.”

Ive and Altman hope to raise $1 billion for the venture — and have been in talks with the Emerson Collective and Thrive as potential investors, according to the Information. 

In February, a new nonprofit backed by Powell Jobs bought the former campus of the San Francisco Art Institute for $23 million, with plans to preserve its Diego Rivera fresco and relaunch an art school. The campus sits a mile north of Jackson Square. 

— Dana Bartholomew

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