By Thomas K. Pendergast
The United Irish Cultural Center of San Francisco (UICC) submitted plans to the San Francisco Planning Department for a new six-story building to replace its current home. Fundraising has begun for the $65 million project.
A feasibility study is also in the works, expected to be completed in December. It is too early in the process to have a timeline on either the demolition of the two-story building now at 2700 45th Ave., between Sloat Boulevard and Wawona Street, or the construction of its replacement.
“Most projects start with a feasibility study to see if the new facility can stand up to an economic stress test. We have approached it from a different angle,” said the UICC President Liam Reidy. “We started with the concept of new building; we have approached it from a ‘build it and they will come’ approach.”
Reidy said there is nothing wrong with the building now standing except that it’s simply too small for all the big plans they have for the UICC.
“We need more space for our expanding membership and robust Irish cultural programming. The current building does not fulfill all the needs and requests we have from the community or our members,” Reidy explained. “We want to have all the Irish community organizations scattered throughout the city under one roof; a place for all things Irish!”
But why a building three times as large, instead of simply renovating or upgrading the one they have got now?
“An upgrade of the existing building would not give us any extra square feet of space for all the activities we have requests for from the community,” he said. “The cost of an upgrade would be prohibitive and a difficult remodel. Our members have asked for an expansion of our community offerings to include health and fitness, hence the proposed gym and aquatics facility.”
The new plans for expansion are ambitious.
From top to bottom, they include a garden on the roof; a restaurant, kitchen and children’s garden on the sixth floor; a gym with locker rooms and massage areas on the fifth floor; office space for local non-profits, neighborhood and community organizations on the fourth floor; a library and children’s playroom on the third floor; a mezzanine with tiered seating looking down at a performance stage and banquet hall seating area on the second floor; a museum/digital gallery, gift shop, pub and another restaurant with a kitchen on the ground floor; an underground parking garage at the first basement level; and a swimming pool, children’s pool and basketball court on the lower basement level.
According to documents filed with the Planning Department, the total envelope for the new building will be 119,858 square feet.
“We expect the final price tag to come in around $65 million. Fundraising is just getting started and most of the early seed money has come from our membership and community members and Irish American clubs and fraternal organizations,” Reidy said. “We will pursue local and state funding along with corporate and foundation opportunities. It’s a little early yet to chase down those opportunities, but the local community has been brilliant in their response so far. There is appetite for the new building and it’s an exciting time for the Irish-American community.”
Other notable aspects of the proposed building are the use of limestone to represent Irish heritage; an overall form that is laid out in four quadrants to represent the four provinces of Ireland; a “peel back and puncture through” design for the top floor and roof inspired by ancient standing stones, like the Ogham Stones; and the northwest corner of the roof and top floor will be “pushed down” or lowered to allow for an ocean view from the observation deck.
Reidy said there was no negative impact on this new plan from the pandemic. In fact, it might have even contributed to the project’s genesis.
“The concept of the new building was hatched only last spring in the middle of the pandemic. The pandemic actually helped energize the community to embark on this very ambitious plan,” he said. “This is a once in a generation opportunity to do something really special for the Irish American community, to ensure a gathering place for all of us for decades to come.”
Photos from the kickoff event of the “Irish Center 2025 Project” at the United Irish Cultural Center on Aug. 28, 2021. Photos by Michael Durand.
To learn more about the Irish Center 2025 Project, go to https://irishcenter2025.org
For more information about the United Irish Cultural Center, go to https://irishcentersf.org
Categories: united irish cultural center