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Presidio Trust Takes Next Step in Planning for the Main Post

The important milestone includes identification of a preferred alternative for the area.



Presidio of San Francisco (December 5, 2008) – The Presidio Trust Board of Directors has reached an important milestone in the long planning process for the Main Post. After many meetings and hundreds of comments from the public as well as from partnering historic preservation organizations, the Trust announced today that a preferred alternative has been identified for the Main Post, the central 120 acres of the Presidio of San Francisco.

The preferred alternative reflects the land uses and the improvements to the district that the Trust intends to pursue in order establish the Main Post as the cultural and civic center of a unique urban national park. Key features of the preferred alternative include:

An art museum would occupy a campus of three buildings: offices, classrooms, and artists’ studios in historic 101 Montgomery Street, and galleries, a restaurant, art storage, and conservation facilities in new buildings south of the Main Parade Ground on the bowling center site and south of Moraga on the Infantry Terrace site. New buildings would be connected via a tunnel under Moraga Street. New construction would seek to avoid archaeological resources. Building height would be limited to no higher than the roof eave of adjacent historic buildings; approximately half of the built space would be located underground and out of view.The Montgomery Street Barracks would be reused for cultural and visitor-serving activities on the ground floors.Lodging would be in an 80,000 square foot new facility; the height would be in scale with adjacent historic Graham Street Barracks. Lodging would also be located in historic buildings.The historic Presidio Theatre would be rehabilitated for a cinema arts program and would include an 18,000 square foot addition.A heritage and archaeology center would be housed in the historic Officers’ Club. El Presidio, the birthplace of San Francisco would be commemorated.

The preferred alternative incorporates the proposed uses that were identified in the draft Main Post Update of the Presidio Trust Management Plan and draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) released in June 2008, but reduces the scale of new construction that had been proposed for a contemporary art museum and a lodge.

“We believe that this constellation of uses responds to public input, that it fits in this unique national park and will enhance the experience of visitors,” said Dave Grubb, chair of the Trust Board of Directors. “Our vision is to celebrate culture and history and to welcome people from far and wide.”

The draft SEIS analyzes four alternatives for revitalizing the Main Post. The alternatives represent a range of scenarios for reusing historic buildings and for new construction, including a contemporary art museum and lodge. The draft SEIS analyzes a “proposed action,” Alternative 2, but does not identify a preferred alternative. Alternative 2 includes:A 100,000 square foot new museum building south of the Main Parade Ground as proposed by CAMP, as well as rehabilitation of historic building 101, one of the Montgomery Street BarracksA 95,000 square foot lodge as proposed by Larkspur Restaurants and Hotels, as well as rehabilitation of historic building 42, Pershing HallRehabilitation of the historic Presidio Theatre with an 18,000 square foot addition as proposed by the San Francisco Film Center

The preferred alternative responds to concerns about the scale and prominence of new buildings in the historic site. “The planning process is working as it was meant to work,” said Craig Middleton, executive director of the Trust. “All of the projects in the Presidio have benefited from the public process.” The Presidio Trust will amend design guidelines to ensure that new construction is compatible with the historic character of the Main Post.

The Trust has been working with the National Park Service, the State Historic Preservation Office, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to identify strategies that would allow new construction to be compatible with the historic site. Those ideas were presented to the public on November 19. “We are grateful for the strong collaborative effort to preserve the historic integrity of the Main Post,” said Middleton. “While it is certainly difficult to build something new in an historic district, we have patiently deliberated on the challenges and we believe that workable solutions have been identified.”

The Presidio Trust Board of Directors will hold a public meeting on Tuesday, December 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, 3301 Lyon Street. At the meeting, Trust staff will explain the preferred alternative and take public comment.

Next, the Trust will develop an analysis of the preferred alternative and circulate a supplement to the draft SEIS for a 45-day public comment period. The supplement will be available in January. Interested parties wishing to provide comments on the previously analyzed alternatives or the merits of the draft SEIS may continue to do so, or wait until the supplement is made available.

“The preferred alternative combines elements of different alternatives, and so we want the public to have an opportunity to comment on it,” said Middleton. “We hope that project proponents will remain committed to the Presidio and will be open to rethinking their proposals. The Trust is fortunate to have such outstanding proposals and to be working with such great project teams. Everyone involved in this process wants to do the right thing for the Presidio.”

The Trust will memorialize its decision in a record of decision (ROD) sometime early next year after issuing a final SEIS.

Revitalization of the Main Post was identified as a goal in the 2002 Presidio Trust Management Plan (PTMP) and has been a focus of the Presidio Trust for the past four years. The Trust has already approved plans to landscape the 7-acre Main Parade Ground parking lot as a green open space that will draw people to the center of the park, and has reused nearly 75 percent of the building square footage in the Main Post, which exceeds 1.1 million square feet.

“The Main Post has always been the heart of the Presidio. Soldiers lived in the barracks, mustered and exercised on the parade grounds, and people came and went about a myriad of activities. Although most of the building space in the Main Post is occupied, we have not yet re-established its dynamic character,” said Middleton. “We hope that the public will bring vitality back to the Main Post.”

On August 8, 2007, the Presidio Trust announced a proposal from CAMP to build a museum that would house Doris and Don Fisher’s world-renowned collection of contemporary art. The Trust responded to the offer by issuing a request for proposals for cultural institutions and visitor-serving uses in the Main Post. The RFP included both opportunities for new construction and re-use of the historic Montgomery Street Barracks, the stately red-brick buildings that form the western edge of the Main Parade Ground. The new construction site was identified as the area immediately south of the Main Parade Ground where a bowling center has sat since 1989. The Trust received two responses to the RFP: one from the Contemporary Art Museum at the Presidio (CAMP) and one from the Presidio Historical Association (PHA) for The History Center at the Golden Gate.

In January 2008, the Trust announced that it would proceed with the CAMP proposal, subject to review under the provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act, two of the acts that guide activities on federal lands. The Trust declined to entertain the PHA proposal because although it put forth a programmatic vision, it did not include a collection or a source of funding.

In September 2006, the Trust issued an RFP for lodging that also included an opportunity for new construction and reuse of an historic building. On October 15, 2007, the Trust announced that it would proceed with Larkspur Hotels and Restaurants as its development partner for lodging in the Main Post.

In response to the public’s request that the Trust provide a comprehensive analysis of the Main Post, the Trust announced on October 29, 2007 that it would undertake an update to the PTMP and would discontinue efforts to analyze the lodge and the museum project separately. A draft Main Post Update was issued in June 2008 along with the draft SEIS. The draft Update presents a vision of the Main Post as a center for culture and history and the draft SEIS provides a comprehensive analysis of the proposed changes.

The public has been actively involved over the past four years in planning for the Main Post and many have stated strong opposition to anything that might alter its historic character. “The Trust is dedicated to preserving the Presidio – its resources and its character,” said Grubb. “We are also charged with transforming the Presidio into a place that welcomes the public. That requires change, and change can be good. The Presidio evolved over the course of 200 years to serve a military community. It continues to evolve, now to serve the general public. But its historic importance endures.”

The Presidio Trust was established by the United States Congress in 1996 to manage the Presidio of San Francisco, a former Army base located at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. The 1,500-acre site contains the infrastructure of a small town as well as expansive open space, a 300-acre historic forest, spectacular views, and rare and endangered plants and wildlife. It comprises nearly 6 million square feet of buildings The Trust has rehabilitated more than 250 of the Presidio’s 469 historic buildings, and has received numerous awards for preservation, planning, and for redevelopment, including the 2006 Urban Land Institute Global Award for Excellence.

Media Contacts

Lisa Petrie

Presidio Trust

(415) 264-7787