Burning Man HQ Sells for $17 Million

office launch ed lee

Larry Harvey, Ed Lee and David Chiu announce new Burning Man HQ in 2011

A year or two back, Burning Man moved their offices into a new building in Market St. An area “best known for drug deals, graffiti and vagrants“, it’s close to City Hall, in the heart of San Francisco. Burning Man’s move was announced proudly in 2011 at the United Nations Plaza (the UN was created in SF) by Mayor Ed Lee, and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu – who (like a number of SF politicians) has hardcore Burners on his personal staff and has made the trek to Black Rock City personally. They saw Burning Man’s presence as something that could transform the Tenderloin and Mid-Market area, through public art and “civic responsibility”.

Now that building has been sold, for a pretty reasonable price of $200/sq ft in  San Francisco’s booming real estate market – the fastest growing market for Class A office real estate in the US in 2012. According to the San Francisco Business Times:

The long-neglected office building at Sixth and Market that houses Burning Man has sold for nearly $17 million, another example of institutional capital pouring into the Mid-Market neighborhood.

image from Mobber Oakland Mofo Photography

image from Mobber Oakland Mofo Photography

SF Investment LLC, a joint venture between Seattle-based Columbia Pacific Advisors and San Francisco-based Long Market Property Partners, has closed on the acquisition of 995 Market St. The price was just under $200 a square foot.

“We are excited to be purchasing this asset, especially in the midst of all the positive developments taking place in Mid-Market,” said Justin Shapiro, a partner with Long Market Property Partners.

Who are these hedge funds? Did the Burning Man founders cash out of Black Rock City, LLC, and plough the money into real estate developments? We’ll probably never know, as these are private companies.

As might be expected, in 2 years there is no word yet on whether Burning Man has been effective in spreading the Playa gospel to transform inner city San Francisco. Did they create new jobs, foot traffic, and services? I used to in dust we trust dollarlive very close to there until quite recently, and trust me, it’s still a shithole. If you ask me, Twitter is more likely to reform the neighborhood than Burning Man. But I still hold out hope that when BMOrg says they will do something, and it will be wonderful, that maybe they will actually do it and it will actually be wonderful. Others, perhaps with an eye on history, might be more cynical…

16 comments on “Burning Man HQ Sells for $17 Million

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  5. Honestly, what is this post even saying? There are three points here.

    1) BMorg rented space out in a slummy building/area downtown in 2011 because of payroll tax incentives.
    2) The building that BMorg is a (minor) tenant in has recently sold for $17m to a private equity firm.
    3) Despite a few choice snippets of hyperbolic language by Ed Lee (NOT by BMorg or anyone affiliated), the area has failed to turn into an idyllic paradise of art and hugging. There are still crackheads passed out in the street.

    None of these three things are related. This post seems to imply that after 1), and because of 3), 2) has happened and BMorg has somehow profited from this. Besides the obvious impossibility of a BRAF/BMorg, which employs a grand total of two dozen people, having any discernible effect on the large community of addicts and lowlifes centered around 6th and Market, how would BMorg- again, a minor tenant -have anything to do with any money exchanged for the building that they are leasing space in? What exactly did BMorg say they’d do to “fix” this?

    Now, I’m all for legitimate criticism of the Org and their handling of any number of things, and I also agree with the notion that the BM community should give vocal and active feedback to BMorg about how our ticket money is being spent and how the event is structured…but can we please keep the above limited to the realm of rationality? This post is written in a way that sounds sane, but the implications/connections are beyond ‘conspiracy theory’ and out into ‘absurd comedy.’

  6. The project (org) is still going through a lot of changes and I don’t think they are easy for a lot of people involved. My added comments above are not meant to be a big negative, but at the same time I see what St. Paul is talking about. Not to be a negative voice. Just sayin’… but it’s been about 2 years and nothing happens all that fast.

  7. A pretty insightful comment by Larry Harvey about the TAZ on the Burning Man blog ended up (http://blog.burningman.com/2010/07/metropol/black-rock-city-the-taz-and-the-rise-of-great-civilizations/#comments) saying:

    “a better intellectual model that relates to Black Rock City is furnished by the Situationists. In the 1960’s they offered up a sustained and cogent critique of consumerism, characterizing late 20th century capitalism as producing what writer Guy Debord called “The Society of the Spectacle”. And unlike Wilson, whose retreat into capsule interzones is fraught with paranoia, they at least envisioned a future for great civilization (It is true, however, that after producing brilliant theory and many clever epigrams, they then proceeded in true Gallic fashion to do absolutely nothing of practical value, but perhaps, as pragmatic Americans, that is left up us).”

    Sadly it seems like maybe now, in true American fashion, things are being done in such a way that a few get to take the vast majority of the economical profit, and the rest scramble to take what they can of what’s left, mostly by pleasing those few.

  8. Others more cynical than yourself? Oh please. If some naive burner read this article and assumed “Burning Man sold their HQ for $17M and pocketed the proceeds” it would pretty much be “mission accomplished” at burners.me HQ, surely (based on a reasonable reading of pretty much every “the BMorg are money grubbing a-holes” article posted here) Did BMorg assassinate Kennedy? We’ll probably never know….

    • You got some evidence that they’ve done anything to promote mid-market like they said they would? Please provide it and we’ll write a story

      • That was part of the plan. I was at the event shown with the house at the top of the screen where Ed Lee (ew) and Larry and the gang announced the Burning Man Project and it’s intentions and there was a lot of noise about transforming that area into a more artistic and revitalized space with this evolution of the org. The most I have ever see was Karen’s metal sculptures that lasted a while out there. But alas it feels like very little has developed in the crack den that is mid market.

    • Wow, did you create that “St. Paul of Addis” account just to have something to hide behind while you snipe for the Org?

      There’s no mission here, aside from ferreting out a little truth and sharing it. If the Org doesn’t like the truth, they can always change it, and we’ll report that.

      • Honestly? I liked this site when I discovered it and thought it was an interesting and alternative voice on burner culture, but the endless “Wil Chase is sending secret messages through the jackrabbit email” paranoia and “Larry Harvey was standing two city blocks away from someone who made some money via some scheme or other — proof of another BMorg scam? While we can’t prove it….” inferences are kind of disappointing and easy to make fun of. Just as there are some burners who believe crystals have magical healing powers, I am sure some burners eat up this “maybe the Borg did make $17 mil in a real estate deal… we’ll never know….” crap. Others might just wish you’d reign it in a little, because there are some good points getting lost in some really shitty, amateur hour “journalism” here. I will now return to my previously scheduled snark.

      • I’ve read this story again, and just can’t see what you’re talking about here “St Paul”. Do you know who the purchasers, or vendor was? Other than “corporations”? Given the anonymous nature of these transactions, it seems like we’re asking pretty reasonable questions – and acknowledging that we don’t know.

        I can’t see the insinuation that Burning Man pocketed the proceeds from the building sale – we’re pretty clear about who the purchasers are, and that Burning Man are a tenant in this building. I also can’t see the “secret messages” paranoia and other crap you’re spouting, in the rest of this site’s posts. Which makes me think you’re a troll.

        Do you know if BMOrg has done anything to transform mid-market? The words in the story are pretty clear “I still hold out hope” – but instead of people leaping to their defense with stories of all the great things BMOrg has been doing in the 7 months since they banked $20 million+ from the last party, or the almost 2 years since they moved in…we get Burners.Me bashing. That’s OK, we can take it! And if people do have those stories, please send ’em in, we’re happy to write about it. Readers should note though, that the lack of such stories is not because of some prejudice from us: it’s not like we’re sitting on a ton of stories of BMOrg glory that we’re trying to hide from you guys.

        We call it like we see it. Your Mileage May Vary.

    • Your comments add up to nothing more than a lame ad hominem attack. Do you have a real complaint, or a real identity?



      Agree with St Paul, there. The article is written with such slant that I inferred that the Borg profited from the building’s sale and actually looked up more info to see if my impression that they were renting space was wrong. It wasn’t. I had to wade around a bunch to see that, yes, it’s true, you’re really trying to connect the sale of their building from/to unknown real estate investors and “hmmmm, are they now investing in real estate and making profit on this deal”? What you’re doing with this writing is tantamount to push-polling. Stop it. Give us stuff we can eat, digest, extract nutrients from, and shit out. The Examiner wouldn’t even run it.

      Oh and below, too! St. Paul, that is. And before my crit of crit is critted, I joined for the same reasons. Alternatives, question authority, good gadflies can keep things nicely in order and on pace (hi, Chicken!)

      The comments here are a good example, too! Of many things, including how the left eats itself, the gadflies have gadflies. Better have your ducks well in a row when implying this or that, and hey, in the end, implications aren’t actually really journalistic – or even compelling. If you’re gonna throw down, make sure to have something (Jesus, anything!) substantial and be ready for the blow back. Accusing any of your article’s critics of being official Borg staff shills, and other ad hominem stuff, does nothing but weaken your position and our impressions. It makes you look paranoid. Like the person who says “crazy” things that resonate with my own crazy ideas and theories, I gravitate to those people. But often they’ll make sense at first, but when I pay much closer attention it’s clear they’ll never listen open hearted to me, or others; when I see that their crazy ideas (including our shared ones) have eaten them up, I wander away. And I do some rumeditatin’ on my own various crazy ideas to see if I’m being eaten. More often than not I find something or other that needs improvement! The mold makes the cheese, but it can also ruin it!

      Or just maaaaaybe Burners.me is a project of the Borg itself, their own cointelpro aimed at identifying their critics more effectively, ferreting out moles and other leakers, and agitating from within to push this movement to act in ways they can actually come after. One wonders who your Pinkertons might be!

      Your “who are these people?” question, and other questions you’re mulling over here, are why as a journalist* you go out and research to find some answers you can run as a story. They most definitely aren’t the story itself. Knowing these differences – being able to SEE them as we all swim in the realities we’ve created and belief systems that come to rule us, see them with any tiny bit of objectivity, that’s what separates the pupae from the larvae. What would Zappa do?

      * yes, we know you’re not a journalist, and this isn’t journalism. Journihilism, ooo there’s a good coinage, though. Maybe run with that!

  9. I like your insight. I completely agree. Is BM just a money making machine – party for those, who can afford it? In what other ways is it changing the World besides helping some people to open their hearts? Is it enough? I’m sure there are ways to make it more relevant, effective and helpful to those who are suffering in our World.

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