Purchased for $1.9 million in December of 2014, the historic façade of the two-story Polk Gulch building at 1217 Sutter Street was subsequently restored, the building’s interior refurbished and the Rusted Mule opened in early 2017.

But the Mule shuttered at the end of last year and plans for a new 7-story building to rise up to 82 feet in height behind the building’s existing façade have since been drafted.

And as rendered by Stephen Antonaros, the proposed infill development would yield 17 residential units, a mix of 4 studios, 7 one-bedrooms and 6 twos, over 880 square feet of new ground floor retail space fronting Sutter and a basement garage for 34 bikes with a dedicated entrance and ramp down from Hemlock Street.

We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

26 thoughts on “Historic Infill on the Boards”
        1. Bingo cards on what will the ground floor retail actually cater to:

          1. Yoga studio

          2. Exclusive medical group office

          3. Empty

          What a boon to the neighborhood

        2. It’s literally not even being removed as a commercial space. Trying to extrapolate the closure of 1 bar — which happened last year before the pandemic and whose space has been sitting empty since — and claiming that as a sign of doom for the area or predictive of a much more widespread trend is just absolute nonsense. But yeah, let’s keep pretending like an already empty storefront is a real boon to the neighborhood.

    1. That was my initial reaction (sarcasm font) “A neighborhood bar? What a waste of a valuable spot!”(sarcasm font).

      However on looking into it, I found that it was such only in its last years: it seems to have started out as a Post Office, then did duty in a variety of retail functions – upholsterer, auction house, appliances – none of which related to the neighborhood specifically.

    1. Not preserved but updated: thankfully it appears that tent-like design – a reminder of socio-economic oppression if I ever saw one ! – will be replaced w/ something woke….and likely to leak.

  1. Oof. How many rounds in are we on this? Could use just a smidge refinement, no?

    I’m generally not too irritated by facades being treated as prosthetics but this looks super clunky.

    We need the units but we also need some taste if not just contextual design thinking.

    1. The design is certainly contextual, given that there’s an almost identical facade + 7 story block across the street

  2. Looks like one reason that the commercial space is so small is that they have a hallway from the Sutter St side. That doesn’t seem very necessary… Is it a code requirement or something?

  3. Based on where the speaker appears to be mounted on the mosque next door it looks like the units on the second and third floors will be getting the call to prayer broadcasted directly into their living/ bedrooms five times a day. That’s quite a “hallmark of the neighborhood’s cosmopolitan character,” as a realter might say.

    I agree with a comment above that the City needs more housing like this, in neighborhoods across the City (Yes, I’m looking at you Sunset). However as an example of facadism this specimen is very ham fisted. Why even bother preserving the original structure at this point?

    1. Pre-COVID I used to spend a fair amount of time in that area and don’t recall ever hearing a broadcast call to prayer. It might actually violate a noise ordinance.

      1. I agree. I never heard the mosque. They are excellent neighbors and really helped us out of a jam on multiple occasions.

  4. What a shame. This building was beautifully restored inside and out for the bar that was there. All the restaurants on that street are getting forced out of business by the real estate brokers who run the same game. Tear down the beautiful historic brick interiors and replace with ticky-tacky 8 story housing. Someone gets a quick payday. That stretch of history will soon be lost forever, the facades a cruel mask of skin of the former victim buildings. Silence of the lambs.

    Should be illegal. Tear down the non historic buildings instead. Keep neighborhoods characters the same along the streets but build in the back by removing alleys and infill at a deep retail only setback. Make the housing blend in.

    1. “All the restaurants on that street are getting forced out of business by the real estate brokers who run the same game.”

      Yes, the reason restaurants are failing left right and center in San Francisco is definitely because of real estate brokers and not, you know, a global pandemic that shut them all down and zero support from the city, state, or federal governments.

      1. Speaking as a former 5% co-owner of Rusted Mule: the bar/lounge/restaurant failed (a) well before the pandemic, and (b) under no pressure from real estate developers or brokers. It was simple economics: renovation costs were well-managed, but the monthly rent was high. There were times when we had a ton of customers, and times when we didn’t have enough customers to run in the black. From time to time, we had employees stealing from the bar. Some surprising things about the bar business:

        (1) it’s super seasonal. Busy and slow months are normal parts of the calendar cycle and they are HUGE swings between the busiest months and the lightest months.
        (2) Some successful bars get a surprisingly large boost from booked events (think: corporate events). If that’s not a big part of a bar’s revenue then that bar might be missing out, maybe.
        (3) Staffing is hard. We had lots of great staff but also a handful of not-so-great staff over the years, which resulted in a mix of good and bad customer service experiences (and some bad Yelp/Google reviews). Interesting correlation: the same people that the customers would complain about were also the most likely to be stealing from the till.
        (4) Going into music was a double-edged sword. Made for some fun nights, some high revenue events, but also undermined the “classy lounge” vibe to a degree. The bar changed identity once or twice as we experimented with different approaches.
        (5) The nail in the coffin for our business was the very long construction project on Divisadero which substantially decreased foot traffic.

        Honestly, Polk Gulch is still going to be a fun place to go out partying and there are lots of nice places to get nice drinks, cheap drinks, dance, chill out, or whatever. This particular location is off-Polk far enough that people could live here and not be overwhelmed by street noise.

        TLDR: Rusted Mule was fun, but it went out of business because we didn’t have the management skill to navigate some bad luck – and that was *without* a pandemic. Had we been open in March 2020 we would have folded instantly.

        1. @hvd, that’s not true. The entire corner was converted before the pandemic, closing a nice bar and sandwich place too. That whole street is being gutted. The pandemic only slowed it down. The property owned in that area all want to do conversions as fast as possible.

          @Eric, the rent was high probably because the landlord was looking to convert and just wanted something in the mean time. Rusted Mule never had a chance. The whole street was a wasteland of scaffolding for new housing. Agree though that this is off Polk, that’s why I’m saying it’s a shame places like that get plowed under for ugly housing.

  5. I love the design but also agree with those who regret the loss of bars, restaurants and other street-level retail, service and activity spaces. Yeah, it’s just one but there have been and will be many others and eventually the neighborhood begins to seem a bit sterile and the people living there have to go farther afield to dine or recreate or whatever they want to do. So I say build it, but keep the store front for the current use.

    1. My $0.02 is that at least for a little while, we’re going to have slightly fewer bars and restaurants. It’ll take several months for a vaccine, not everyone will take it, and some folks will be reluctant to return to public life the way we were before. So if we end up with 20% fewer places to eat and drink, that’s probably fine.

      I enjoy living in a vibrant neighborhood as much as anyone, don’t get me wrong.

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