1401 Howard Street

Vacant since damaged by the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989, the plans to rehab the Saint Joseph’s Church, parish hall and rectory at 1401 Howard Street, and convert the church, so to speak, into an 18,000-square-foot office space with 1,300 square feet of retail and a 2,500-square-foot assembly hall could be approved by San Francisco’s Planning Commission next month.

1401 Howard Rendering

As proposed and rendered by Forum Design, a freestanding interior mezzanine would be added to the church following its seismic upgrade, and the open floor plan within the sanctuary space has been designed with tech tenants in mind.

1401 Howard Rendering: The Mezzanine

Originally designed by John J. Foley and built in 1913, the St. Joseph’s Church is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated San Francisco City Landmark #120.   And while the parish was predominantly Irish at the onset, it primarily served a Filipino parish when it closed.

Brian Spiers Development is leading the redevelopment charge along with the owner, Chris Foley, who purchased the property from the Roman Catholic Church in 2008.

35 thoughts on “A High-Tech Conversion Of Saint Joseph’s Church”
  1. This is an amazing reuse of an amazing old building. When I think preservation, this is the kind of project I’m thinking about.

  2. Modern office design has been moving away from individual offices/cubes plus big conference rooms into shared workspaces/tables augmented with informal gathering areas.

    An appropriate adaption of an old Catholic church would be to scatter a few soundproofed “confessionals” around the perimeter for one-on-one conversations. A pair if super high backed padded chairs facing one another would do.

    1. into shared workspaces/tables augmented with informal gathering areas.

      At least in the tech world that this reno is aimed toward (assuming no dotcom 3.0 crash before it’s complete), open-plan offices are soundly rebuked as productivity killers. It’s pretty much only bosses and loud people who like them.

      1. Yup, who can think with all that ruckus and distraction? I guess there is no such thing as privileged communication or privacy laws within the tech world. Not meant to be a law or medical office.

        1. I’m no big fan of the open plan office either. Just give me a traditional office with a door. And a window. In the corner. One common item you’ll see more frequently as the cube walls get lower and lower and finally disappear are noise canceling headphones.

    1. Technology is a religion? That’s great news. Means we can stop paying taxes and start double parking. Also, we can condemn and defame the people we don’t like without reproach.

      1. Well, it’s a bit overwhelming to know where to start. Between the owners who strip everything before selling to the planners who demand prohibitively expensive reinforcement to developers who think preserving a facade is sufficient, it’s hard to know where to start assigning blame.

    1. This building was damaged by the earthquake and not being used. The Church had to sell a lot of assets as a result of changing demographics and declining numbers of worshippers plus settlements from sex abuse cases. Fortunately the Church is not being torn down to make way for a new building.

  3. I like this conversion. It reminds me of the offices @ City Hall and Ferry Building. If you like the nice soaring Church architecture, I suggest visiting St. Ignatius Church (near USF.)

    One of my most memorable trips is a helicopter ride to see Christ the Redeemer statue up close in Rio de Janeiro. Talk about being perched on the shoulder of an icon.

  4. love it!
    Though to date, my favorite re-use of a church was in Pittsburgh PA where they turned an old church into a brewery/restaurant, with the giant steel brewing tanks up in the alter area. That made me happy.

  5. I’m interested to hear what BobN would suggest based on (I assume) non-American experience. It seems odd that the best use for this space is office (due to office shortage)? The space seems more reminiscent of a public space, like the brewery/restaurant BigV mentioned above, or a food court with stalls along the sides. The light, airy feel reminds me a little of Grand Central Station, so I think transit hub. I suppose none of these uses pencil out, and we will have a very Catholic looking office building.

    At least the chimes could ring on prime numbers, or some other appropriate computer-related theme?

    1. The real next best use of this building would be to convert it back to a religious building. It need not be Catholic and there are plenty cases in past history where buildings of worship changed from catholic church to mosque and back. But I’d guess the issue here is that private corporations have a lot more money than local parishes.

    2. The other public use of the space could be a library. One of the more beautiful frescoes in Europe is the one found in Melk, Austria. It is in the library of a monastery. A very beautiful and picturesque monastery.

      1. San Francisco already has many lovely and very functional libraries. There is no library shortage in the city (and I personally use several libraries in the city and encourage others to check them out). Also, with the city already have many other more pressing demands on public funds, I do not envision a new public library opening in the city anytime soon, especially one located inside a very pricey piece of real estate.

        It was a church, it no longer is one. And, a church is not a “public space,” as its primary purpose is to serve as a place of worship for people of a particular faith, which naturally excludes the millions of people of different faiths, or no faith. (And, no, this building never served as a de facto museum as some churches in Europe and elsewhere do). There is no obligation, legal, moral or otherwise to make it into a public space.

        There is a high demand for office space in the city, and the market gets what it dictates.

        If you want to build a brewery or a private library, by all means, raise the funds, buy the land, get all the necessary planning and permit approvals, and then build your brewery or library.

  6. How are they dealing with the acoustics? Churches are designed to amplify the sound of human voices. Not exactly what you want in an open office environment.

  7. I hope they can allot a small space/room as a Chapel to at least preserve the remnants of the once Sacred place, maybe even hold a noontime mass at that Chapel for the few of us left who would like to worship.

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