NOW THAT THE BUILDING IS SAVEDPreservationists Raise Dollars for Fallon Building Restoration

by Bruce Mirken

Now that the board of directors of the San Francisco's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center Project has voted not to demolish the century-old Victorian located on their site at 1800 Market Street, the preservationists who fought to save the Fallon Building are keeping their end of the bargain. They've started a campaign to raise money for the structure's restoration. Friends of 1800 Market, the grassroots group formed to fight for the building's preservation, and the Foundation for San Francisco's Architectural Heritage will hold an initial fund-raiser April 18 at the Haas-Lilienthal Mansion, located at 2007 Franklin Street.

The money raised from this and future fund-raisers the groups are planning will go to the preservation and restoration of the historic Victorian. Friends of 1800 Market organizer Gary Goad hopes that means it will go to the Community Center Project, but that remains up in the air for the time being. Though the CCP board voted unanimously March 18 to reverse an earlier decision to demolish the structure, they left open the question of whether to refurbish the building and incorporate it into the center, sell it and build only on the adjacent land, sell the whole site and relocate elsewhere or keep the Victorian but build the new Center next door first and save restoration for later.

That decision will be made at the CCP board's next meeting, scheduled for April 8. For the moment, board President Brenda Barnette said, "We have board members crunching numbers" as they look at the various alternatives.

Though a new feasibility study brought down the cost of renovation significantly, Barnette noted, "There's still a half million dollar gap" between the renovation estimate and the project's existing budget.

Barnette is pleased that the Friends are moving ahead with their fundraising efforts. Unfortunately, she said, board members won't be able to attend the April 18 reception and silent auction because of a previously scheduled board retreat. "We told them we'd love to come to their next one," she added.

This first fund-raiser, Goad said, is just the beginning. "We planned it as a small event," hoping to use it to raise seed money for a larger campaign, including a bigger fund-raiser during the summer.

Goad, acknowledging that "we're not fund-raisers," said he hopes that Friends will be able to work with the CCP board on future events, combining the board's substantial fund raising expertise (Barnette is development director at the San Francisco SPCA and other board members have extensive fundraising experience as well) with Friends' connections in the preservation community. The group has already started mining those contacts. The National Trust for Historic Preservation is distributing 125 invitations to the April 18 event. Future fund-raisers will be able to work from larger lists, including the 3,000 people who signed the Friends petition asking that the building be saved, he added.

Even though the final details of the Fallon Building's future haven't been worked out yet, everyone now seems to be moving forward in a spirit of optimism. "I think there's a significant amount of community that's starting to be built out of this process," Barnette observed. "I think that's what we're trying to do: to build a center that allows us all to honor our diversity."

The next LGBT Community Center Project board meeting will be held April 8 at 7 pm at San Francisco's temporary City Hall, 401 Van Ness. For information, call (415) 437-2257.

For information about the April 18 fund-raiser and future events connected to the preservation of the Fallon Building, call Friends of 1800 Market at (415) 643-1236.

copyright, 1998

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