Burning Man arrived in the central Mid-Market district a few years ago with great fanfare. They announced their move a day after the city provided a new payroll tax break, trying to lure employers to the area – suggesting that getting BMHQ was considered a coup by the city. Larry Harvey gave a speech at the United Nations Plaza, as did Mayor Ed Lee and President of the Board of Supervisors David Chiu. They talked about how Burning Man’s art and vibrant culture was going to transform the rather seedy part of Market Street, near the Tenderloin. And Larry spoke of the exciting change to make Burning Man into a non-profit. Harvey described the neighborhood, with its oh-so-urban mixture of hipster tech workers and street hustler crackheads, as “very like Black Rock city” in its diversity. He humbly offered to make the neighborhood a better place with their presence: “as humble immigrants into this neighborhood, we mean to contribute to a neighborhood that is already vital”
From the SF Examiner:
The Burning Man Project plans to build an “urban cultural center” in San Francisco that will provide, among other things, collaborative gathering and gallery spaces, classrooms, and sites for ritual and ceremony, according to the group.
“It’s one thing to put up a sculpture somewhere, which is good, but we’ve never had the opportunity to look at a whole group of neighborhoods like this as a potential for our endeavors,” Burning Man founder Larry Harvey said.
Sadly, none of this seems to have happened. Except for a single rusty flower on arrival, there was no Burning Man art put on Market Street, no collaborative cultural center, no real community engagement with the Tenderloin. The area still looks pretty much like it always has. Burning Man is making bigger profits than ever for Black Rock City, LLC, the private corporation who remain the owners. The Burning Man Project is now well into it’s third year, and we’re still waiting for it to announce some of the charitable things that it’s done.
And Burning Man are now moving out of their fancy corporate tower.
If you’re looking for nearly 20,000 square feet of A grade commercial office space, 5 entire floors of their $17 million building at 995 Market Street are available. You’d be in good hi-tech company with Twitter, Spotify, Benchmark Capital and Zoosk all nearby.
Burning Man’s total rent bill in 2012 was $615,944, if all that was for this building then that works out to about $2.50/square foot per month – which seems like a pretty good deal to me, especially since they got a payroll tax break on their $7 million salary bill to offset the rent costs.
Burning Man Sublease (downtown / civic / van ness)
Burning Man organizers eye move to redeveloped mid-Market Street arts district
In much the same way as they annually transform a desolate stretch of the Nevada desert into a week-long countercultural art festival, the organizers of Burning Man are now hoping to transform a desolate stretch of San Francisco’s Market Street.
The group that builds a temporary city of more than 40,000 creative vagabonds at the end of each summer is in talks to move into the nine-story early 20th century Warfield Building, at Market Street where Taylor and Sixth streets converge. The building is in the heart of a depressed and crime-ridden three-block zone that San Francisco has been trying to redevelop for years, and is now offering incentives to turn it into cluster of arts organizations.
Marian Goodell, director of business and communications and one of the founders of Burning Man LLC, said the organization has been looking at a number of office spaces on Market Street. She said the Warfield Building in particular has “many characteristics that we like.”
Goodell said the group has also been talking with other arts groups that are looking into the mid-Market area and that an arts renaissance there is imminent.
“We’re willing to go into a neighborhood that no one else really wants and liven it up,” Goodell said. “We’re pretty engaged. I can imagine that whatever a neighborhood might need we would be open to help.”
The group, which has 30 employees and thousands of volunteers who work on a variety of artistic, performance and media projects, would provide foot traffic and a financial boost to retail business in the area.
…San Francisco officials have provided Burning Man with logistical help. Amy Cohen, director of neighborhood Business Development for the city, said the city has actively encouraged Burning Man to move into the area.
“We are interested in anyone who can bring people into the area,” Cohen said. “There is a movement to have Market be an extension of downtown. We see a niche that is developing as a civics-oriented arts district. There’s a lot of entrepreneurial energy moving into this area and Burning Man represents this energy.”
The city’s efforts to revive the forlorn stretch between Fifth and Eighth streets have been slow to gain momentum. Last year Mayor Gavin Newsom announced an $11 million loan fund to encourage arts groups to settle in the zone. But as of last month, only one business — a hamburger restaurant — had taken the city up on the offer. Part of the problem has been that due to restrictions on federal funds, the money must be used to generate new jobs, not just relocate existing ones.
Cohen’s office has conducted walking tours of office spaces in the mid-Market area. She said she will help the group navigate complex city approvals. One way her office could help Burning Man is by speeding up the temporary arts licensing process.
Tomas McCabe, executive director of the Black Rock Arts Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Burning Man, said his group’s main focus is finding places for temporary public art on the street outside the office complex.
“I’m talking large-scale projects,” McCabe said. “One problem that cities have in putting in public art is there’s lots of bureaucracy. And sometimes after years and years of work, nothing happens.”
Temporary public art is meant to be installed for a short time and then either removed or replaced with a different installation.
McCabe used the group’s installation of Hayes Green Temple, a intricately carved wooden structure, at Patricia’s Green in Hayes Valley as a showcase of its public art installation work.
“We worked with the local community and they have started their own arts commission,” he said. “They basically curate that one spot in their park. We were the first ones to place public art there.”
He said the residents became instant art critics and have shown a strong civic interest in what is placed there.
“Its fascinating,” McCabe said. “People might not like a piece but they know it’s going to be in a few months and they can’t wait to see the next one.”
McCabe said Burning Man is now looking at ways to bring additional temporary public art into the mid-Market area. Last year the city installed several displays in the Warfield and other buildings as part of its Art in Storefronts project to spruce up the street, where dozens of storefronts have sat vacant for years and even warehouse space for rent.
“We’re looking at doing some window display art and refurbishing a vacant lot and turning it into a bit of an art park,” McCabe said.
The group was recently named in a National Endowment for the Arts grant to pursue this type urban art initiative.
The Burning Man offices are currently located on the edge of the Bayview district in an anonymous office park near a sewage treatment plant.
“The city would love to see us in the mid-Market area, and we love the idea of moving in there,” McCabe said. “I don’t know if it is going to happen, though it looks like it might happen. We’re already talking about the possibilities of engaging the community and getting art out.”
He said moving out of their current offices and into the heart of the city is essential for public participation. “That’s not really happening in an office park in an industrial neighborhood,” he said.
The group is considering using a storefront in the Warfield Building for a museum and cafe.
“I am not sure what it’s going to look like,” he said. “I know it will add a lot of color to have Burning Man there. People know we are here, but it is going to be really exciting for people to actually see us and know where we are.”
The Warfield Theatre, on the first floor of the Warfield Building, opened in 1922 and has been host to vaudeville shows, jazz artists and bands including the Grateful Dead and U2. Early in the last decade the building was briefly home to the San Francisco Examiner.