BAY AREA REPORTER - February 17, 2000


by Terry Bewsick

With renovation and construction finally set to begin in earnest, a small early morning fire last Thursday, February 10 caused an estimated $8,000 damage to the old Fallon Building, site of the planned lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Community Center Project at 1800 Market Street at Octavia.

There were no injuries from the small blaze, according to Lieutenant Ed Campbell, a spokesman for the San Francisco Fire Department. One of the large banners reading "LGBT Center," draped over the building's side for groundbreaking ceremonies last October, was badly damaged.

Campbell said the one-alarm fire was reported at 3:50 a.m. and extinguished by 4:09 a.m. The SFFD is not planning any further investigation into the fire, he said, but it may have been caused by "a small bonfire made of pallets and other materials in shopping carts."

Scott Walton, project manager for the CCP, agreed with Campbell's assessment. "We've had some homeless people that have been around the building off and on," he said, adding that the non-profit group has increased nighttime security at the site to prevent a recurrence.

The burned banner will not be replaced, Walton said.

Since Mayor Willie Brown officiated at a ceremonial groundbreaking last October 20 - just prior to the mayoral election - there have been few visible signs of construction at the project, which remains unofficially known as "the center." Still, Walton indicated that construction is beginning this week, and the as-yet-unnamed center is targeted for an early 2001 opening.

"We've been in the process of a lot of site preparation," he said, including toxicology testing of the soil around the building, finalizing construction contracts, and "dealing with the neighbors" concerning underpinning which must be installed under the center.

With a total capital expense budget of $14.5 million, about $11.9 million has been raised since 1995 for the remodeling and renovation of the century-old 6,6000 square foot Fallon Building, and construction of a new adjoining 35,000 square foot building . The funds raised so far include $6 million in city funding and $1 million from the state of California, with the remainder coming from foundation and corporate grants, individual contributions, and possible federal historic tax credits.

In addition to a name, a new color has not yet been chosen by the CCP board for the Fallon Building's currently brownish exterior, which workers were reportedly about to begin refinishing before the Thursday morning fire.

Until the clear and opaque glass is purchased for the new building's largely glass exterior, Walton explained, a coordinating for the Fallon Building's paint cannot be selected, "because we all know that we just cannot clash."

The Community Center Project's board of directors meetings are open to the public, and are held on the third Wednesday of each month at 7:00 p.m., at 1748 Market Street, Suite 204. For more information, call (415)437-2257.

copyright, 2000

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