“While some condo buyers have been hesitant to invest in an area long overrun by drug peddlers and vagrants, the [SoMa Grand] has caught on among people willing to take a chance that the gritty corridor has the potential to become an exciting and eclectic enclave.”
“But even before the new wave of residents move in, the dollars have been pouring in. At 138 Sixth St., an organic restaurant and catering business, Split Pea Seduction and Jersey Tomatoes, has opened. At 121 Seventh St. is Custom Burger/Lounge, a gourmet burger spot and bar. Around the corner from the SoMa Grand, at 139 Eighth St., Chez Papa owner Jocelyn Bulow has created Bossa Nova, a Brazilian tapas spot and nightclub.
On Sixth Street, renovations are under way for two cafes, a Vietnamese restaurant, an optometrist and large produce/grocery market, according to Jenny McNulty, executive director of Urban Solutions, which works with small businesses in depressed areas. Most of the available retail spaces along Sixth Street are now spoken for.
“You don’t see it yet — a lot of these retail spaces are leased and in the midst of tenant improvements,” she said. “By March, you are going to see a really different landscape.”
And once again, in more ways than one:
“Among the new SoMa Grand owners are land use economists Claude and Nina Gruen of Gruen & Gruen Associates. Empty-nesters who are still cleaning out their 3,500-square-foot hilltop house in El Cerrito, the Gruens looked at some of San Francisco’s fanciest new buildings. They considered the Four Seasons, the Ritz-Carlton and the St. Regis.
But ultimately the Gruens were drawn to the dynamics of a changing district. The Gruens bought two penthouses on the 22nd floor for a 2,400-square-foot unit with a 350-square-foot deck. Depending on size and views, penthouses in the building are priced between $1,000 and $1,200 a square foot.
“We think it’s going to be a short time period before this area is transformed rather dramatically,” said Nina Gruen.
The Gruens compare the neighborhood to the 500 block of Howard Street, where they moved their business in 1974. At the time, it was desolate and suffering from the flight of industry and warehousing. Now it’s the heart of Foundry Square and the transbay district.
“That took 15 years — this will take five years or less,” said Nina Gruen. “I don’t have 15 years.”
And yes, that’s faster than some many (but definitely not all) dare might imagine.