by Dennis McMillan

Friends of 1800 Market, the nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the architectural heritage and historical significance of buildings and landmarks in this city, gathered together at the SF Design Center in the Barbara Beckmann Studio on May 24 to eat, drink, and merrily present a check for $50,000 towards the Community Center Project.

"We are celebrating a rite of passage in that we succeeded in raising $50,000 for the Community Center, which we had promised to do," said Dennis Richards, President of the Friends of 1800 Market.

Vice President of the Community Center Board of Directors Dana Van Gorder gave a brief update on what is happening with the Project, describing the construction on the building which has really begun in earnest. He said the Victorian is farther ahead than the rest of the building because there were a few problems on the empty lot. But starting this week, the big drilling machines will make it obvious that the development is well under way, preparing the foundation for the new construction, with the steel erection going up around September.

The old Victorian Fallon Building has gone through quite a few changes. The old windows are out and most of the interior selective demolition and some interior restoration has been completed. He said the long-standing Victorian portion of the building will be an outstanding feature and well worth all the trouble to keep from bulldozing and razing it.


The Project's fund raising has now reached the $11.5 million mark, largely because San Francisco contributed $6 million, the state granted $1 million specifically for restoration of the Fallon Building, and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi secured a $450,000 grant from the federal government. Over $4 million came from corporations and private contributions. Contributions to the fund for restoration of the Fallon Building can be sent to Friends of 1800 Market, 4052 23rd Street, San Francisco 94114. Checks should be made payable to SF Heritage Foundation. The Friends info-line is (415)364-1626.

The Friends plan to complete the Community Center and open the doors in early summer of 2001, having spent $14.2 million total. This means the fund raising efforts, though highly successful thus far, still have a bit more to go.

"We have developed friendships and relationships not only on a financial contribution basis, but on a personal one," said Pat Martel, President of the Board of Directors of the Community Center Project. "Clearly the Friends are one of our top friends and partners in raising money for the project." Martel reminisced over both the good times and the bad times during the many meetings in the Mayor's office, negotiating and hammering out a compromise to realize the value of the original Fallon Building and the importance of preserving it.

"We should all be so lucky when we're 103 years old to have such good, devoted friends," said Supervisor Mark Leno, referring to the age of the Fallon Building, which incidentally has survived both the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes in San Francisco. History reveals that at the time of the 1906 quake and fire, a string of similar buildings stretched from the waterfront to that location, and all but the Fallon Building were destroyed.


The four-story 41,000-square-foot facility will include the following. On the first floor, there will be a large lobby with an information and referral desk, box office, bulletin boards, mail boxes for tenants, lockers for ongoing renters of meeting rooms, a cafe, two child watch rooms, a youth drop-in and resource room, a senior-focused room, an LGBT history room with display space, and a volunteer work room with phone banks.

The second floor will be a large multipurpose room with a 16-foot ceiling, a kitchen, lobby/lounge area, exhibit area, and Center administration offices.

The third floor will be an education center with an Internet room, meeting rooms, a reading room, lobby/lounge and exhibit area.

The fourth floor will be a large ceremonial room opening onto a roof terrace, and will have a kitchen, ten nonprofit offices, a nonprofit conference room, lounge/lobby, exhibit area, and outdoor balcony. The building will be completely accessible, and each floor will have adequate rest rooms.

Selection of the nonprofits will focus on those serving youth, older adults, and low-income individuals. The larger spaces are designed to welcome and serve everyone through lectures, private parties, social and community activities. According to the program, the goal of the Center is to create events that will attract and increase communication among members of all colors, genders, age, and socioeconomic levels.

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