146 Geary Street

Britex Fabrics has occupied the four-story building at 146 Geary Street since 1952. But late last year, the Union Square property was sold to Acadia Realty Trust and City Center Realty Partners for $38 million.

And yesterday, an application to convert the second, third and fourth floors of the iconic building from retail to office use was submitted to the city as the new ownership team moves forward with their plans to redevelop the property.

In addition, the new owners are angling to change the lettering on the iconic Britex sign, “so that it would meet the needs of [a] new tenant.”

Britex Fabrics Sign

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by feralcockapoo

    I like the way the signage looks now!

  2. Posted by jenofla

    Another cool thing bites the dust. While I totally acknowledge there is no need for low-margin retail in high-rent, desirable areas (they could always go somewhere else, all the designers/crafteres will follow them there), it did add to some diversity and thus excitement to the streetscape. You went inside and pretended you might actually be creative. I guess I just find walking down a street with only office space and high-end retail pretty boring. Oh well.

    • Posted by BobN

      You mean high-end chain retail. Sigh…

      • Posted by Mark

        Same can be said for NYC and many other cities where rental spaces command top dollar and mom/pops, and even formula retail, fold. Uniqueness and diversity are hard to come by. You have to go online in many cases.

        • Posted by Brian M

          That’s sad. Our real, physical world becomes blander and blander and our lives more and more ephemeral.

          The amusing thing is the greater Bay Area is leading the charge for virtualization of everything. Pretty soon, no one will leave their homes. Which is probably better, as a virtual, automated, off-shored, and conglomerated world will not need many workers and the real world will be full of beggars and violence.

          • Posted by soccermom

            Consider Vallejo. Friendly affordable and sunny. Art spaces. Local food and farmers markets. Diverse community. Schools need help, but help is coming.

            The beatniks wouldn’t have enjoyed modern San Francisco either.

    • Posted by Notcom

      First Morrows Nut House (on the southside of the block ) now this (on the north)…yep, I think every element of diverisity and excitement has been scrubbed clean.

      • Posted by Morgan Driver

        Is the perfume shop on the southside still there?
        Have a great fondness for Britex — got the fabric for my wedding dress there!

      • Posted by jackola

        I am STILL sad about Morrows.

    • Posted by Alphaxanon

      Ah, so Britex is moving to LA then.

    • Posted by Denise

      Britex fabrics is hardly “low-margin retail.” The last time I shopped there I paid about $30 a yard for some Italian fabric for my daughter’s prom dress. They sell high end fabrics and it’s expensive.

  3. Posted by Adam

    If they ever had an opportunity to buy their building, they are regretting it now, aren’t they?

    • Posted by tom follery

      they owned the building

      • Posted by Carin McKenna Huber

        Not according to this.

        • Posted by Jackson

          They sold the building for $38 million. These stories are completely misleading since they leave out the fact that the owners of the Britex business CASHED OUT on their own volition and made more profit than any of us could have ever dreamed of. I’m sure if they were willing to pay market rent to the new owners to compliment the market price they paid, they could stay as long as they’d like. It appears the owners of Britex are truly the greedy ones…

          • Posted by Notcom

            So you’re saying that it was Britex itself that sold the building ?? and if so, w/ whom was the lease (Britex retail to Britex realty)??

          • Posted by brandon rogoff

            Jackson is right The owners of Britex owned the building.

            This family was paid nearly $40M to sell their building. They made the choice to sell and we were paid handsomely to do so.

  4. Posted by Mondo A.

    Looking forward to see you in Oakland, Britex!

  5. Posted by mission-ite

    I worked in the entertainment industry, and went to Britex. It is a wonderful fabric store. High end & expensive, but what a selection! A whole floor devoted to notions! Knowledgeable salespeople! I sure hope they find a new home.

    • Posted by curmudgeon

      Totally not about real estate, but I just love the word “notions”.

  6. Posted by Chris W

    Another assault on the “fabric” of San Francisco.

  7. Posted by ananimal

    Brexit, SF style.

    • Posted by kdc

      I see what you did there.

      I go to Britex for things that can’t be found elsewhere in the bay area. So much for that.

      As yeah since 52? Should have bought the building.

  8. Posted by NoeEnvy

    Both those last 2 comments were pretty funny…

  9. Posted by sfdragonboy

    Mom is not going to be happy that another one of her haunts back in the day is going away….

  10. Posted by Joel Villasenor

    Ugh…Britex staff should steal the sign for their new location.

  11. Posted by Stop Driving

    $38M seems like a lot of money for this property. Is there potential to build something taller there?

    • Posted by AJamesHI

      Bite your tongue ! Lol. This is an historic building on an historic block with lots of history. I hope they never build something taller here. I doubt that would happen anyway for a long time.

  12. Posted by nycdr

    I smell spells trouble. When you mess with the bespoke seamstresses that shop at Britex, you mess with their Pacific Height patrons.

  13. Posted by an architect

    so confusing! it sold for 38mil??? the floors are not very big at all — even if you rent each floor for 10 grand a month (which won’t happen), it will take over 100 years to get that money back!!! insane!!!

    • Posted by irritated in SF

      When you have more $$$ than brains, what do you expect.

      I mean, they probably thing the space is “so cute!” I mean, they want to keep the sign font but change it for the new tenants? Who does that? Not anyone sensible.

    • Posted by sentpacking

      Each floor will go for well over 10k per month. Little storefronts in the mission are going for way more than that. I just looked at a 5,000 sq foot warehouse in Oakland and they were asking 17k per month… you’re right, It is INSANE.

      • Posted by Notcom

        The purchase price comes out to $3K/sq ft: figure out what rent is necessary to get a decent ROI on that and see if it works.

    • Posted by Peterfuhry

      If they sell it in 10 years for 48 million, they’ve made a million per year on it, on top of whatever they’ve made from rent. And if they can clear the tenant out, the value of the building goes up.

  14. Posted by teresa

    that is just wrong .. another iconic business gone .. so sad 😢

  15. Posted by irritated in SF

    Another iconic, part of SF place being scrubbed for what? more office space. Let me guess, someone rich just LOVED that space when they went in there and thought. I would LOVE to work here everyday.

    Buy it for an insane amount of money boot the actual retailer and poof! You’ve got more tech office crap.

    • Posted by Chris

      I am not sure what you are guessing about, and you are guessing wrong. Read the article, it is right above your comment. It was purchased by a real estate investment firm, not an individual. No one saw the space and thought they wanted to work there. It was bought because there is a huge demand for office space in SF and the investment firm knows they can rent the space out for a lot of money.

      Also, only the top two floors will be converted to office space, which means the other two floors will remain retail space, whether Britex ends up staying there in the reduced space after their lease expires is up to them and their new landlord.

      • Posted by BobN

        And the universe’s ability to miniaturize bolts of cloth…

      • Posted by Karen

        Actually, the article (right above) says the second, third and fourth spaces will be office space. Only the ground floor will remain retail.

  16. Posted by Gary Angel

    From reliable sources BRITEX FABRICS will remain an Iconic SF business and continue to serve SF and the rest of the country with the best selection of fabrics anywhere. The fact that the building sold and that someone filed “conditional” plans changes nothing.

    • Posted by irritated in SF

      You must have read a section of the article the rest of us all missed. Considering the headline alone state that Brexit’s “Days are Numbered”

      How on earth you came up with your statement is beyond me.

      • Posted by cleverpunhere

        Maybe it was this part?

        “We’re not closing, we’re moving,” said Spector, whose parents, Martin and Lucy Spector, started the business, which has always been at the Geary Street address. “There is zero intent to close.”

  17. Posted by Jackie

    Have they applied for Legacy Business status?

    • Posted by Wynthea

      According to the article in the Chronicle, yes, they have.

  18. Posted by Deborah Doyle

    NOOOOO.

  19. Posted by lulubella

    Did you read the article? “…the new ownership team is moving forward with plans to redevelop the property. In addition, the new ownership team is angling to change the lettering on the iconic Britex sign, “so that it would meet the needs of [a] new tenant.”

    Unless there’s an official joint statement between the two property dev companies and Britex, I’ll go ahead and believe they will be doing what every other property speculator is doing to this town, with the clearance of our Mayor’s office – sell out sell out sell out.

  20. Posted by Gary Angel

    Britex is and will be (application in progress) a legacy business. It WILL continue to serve San Francisco. I suggest people not believe everything they read on line, in blogs, or in the newspapers.

    • Posted by SocketSite

      While San Francisco’s Legacy Business program provides a rent subsidy for businesses that qualify, it doesn’t change or extend the terms of any lease. But we do agree, people should be more selective in which sources they choose to read and trust.

      • Posted by Jackson

        Hey SocketSite – out of curiousity, who sold the building to the real estate investors? To rephrase the question, who just pocketed 38 MILLION DOLLARS on this real estate transaction? Might be worth doing you diligence before posting articles that clearly are inflaming the masses.

    • Posted by Notcom

      It also caps the rent subsidy – which @ $4.50/sf seems rather useless – to 5000 sf….which is only a fraction of the size of the store (or at least the building)

  21. Posted by Dave

    @gary Thanks for the information. Fingers crossed.

    This stretch of Geary has some handsome legacy buildings including the Britex one. Only improvement I’d make is spruce things up a bit with exterior painting and put planter in front of the stores.

    Brick and mortar stores are going the way of Main Street. Which we all bemoan. It is a sad reality and an issue as all new SF developments have the de riguer retail space at the ground floor and maybe, just maybe, that is not a use that can be sustained at the level it once as?

    • Posted by Brian M

      Part of the problem (nationally) is that the United States is vastly over-retailed, period. Something like three times the per capita square footage when compared to Canada, I read in Shopping Centers Today.

      The sad thing, is I would rather see the strip malls along El Camino Real disappear, not classy downtown retail. But it is what it is.

      • Posted by Dave

        Good points. Though El Camino depends – in Burlingame there is a great little downtown still. With many independent businesses.

        Either way, I think brick and mortar retail, whether in downtown SF or along El Camino, will diminish over the next decade and beyond.

  22. Posted by Gary Angel

    I am glad socket confirms now the existence of a lease . Moreover glad they confirm to be selective in what you choose to believe. I am certain BRITEX FABRICS will continue serving SF with he best fabrics in the world.

  23. Posted by TimGunnRetail

    Start interviewing some brokers. This was news a few months ago. The building is too narrow to attract the rents they want.

  24. Posted by Ken

    Stores come and go no matter how much they are loved. There are so many economic factors. I say this with absolute love in my heart for Britex. I just walked by yesterday admiring the quirky swags in their window display. It smells like it’s soon to be a done deal.. I’ll be visiting often before it’s too late.

  25. Posted by Marina

    Have you ever been in the store? Thought not! Britex could not continue on the ground floor alone. There is an entire floor dedicated just to notions – millions of wonderful buttons, fabulous silk flowers. I will follow them wherever they move, and so will the entire Bay Area!

  26. Posted by Dandywhatsoever

    There are tourists who come to San Francisco specifically to shop at Britex.

  27. Posted by Kristin Freeman

    How I will miss my visit to Britex every time I am in the city. Have shopped there since the early 70’s.

  28. Posted by Brian M

    The Post Street corridor is looking a little shaky, actually. A lot of vacancies.

    Is anyone going to do anything with Galleria? It’s half empty. I recall some burble about “local businesses” but…

  29. Posted by amy brownson

    having been born in SF and raised in the east bay now in LA … Britex was the only reason I would still visit union square … it is a staple for me as a designer and fabricator .. the homogenization of that area and SF in general is both sad and disturbing …

  30. Posted by amy brownson

    very short sighted … as we all still wear clothes

  31. Posted by Michaele Thunen

    I am broken-hearted to hear this news.

    Britex is a guaranteed stop on my rounds downtown, when I come into the City. First Mrs. and now Charmain continue to chose and seek out the most wonderfully, interesting and special fabrics. I am never disappointed. My hope, is that when all of this change takes place, that this lovely gem of a store has re-located somewhere within traveling distance, from Berkeley, because I can not conceive of not having access to such an amazing array of fabrics, notions and specialty items for both my work and my personal designs.

    It will be hard to duplicate the feeling of this store elsewhere, but even in a modern loft or chic SOMA storefront, I would go in a heart-beat. If my dear friend is reading this…please find another spot to move those beautiful fabrics, AND STAFF so we all can still enjoy and purchase out-of-this-world fabrics, that we couldn’t find anywhere else.

  32. Posted by Laura Gilkey

    Absolutely not moving to LA. – Another Britex employee

  33. Posted by momonthego

    There’s more than meets the eye here folks. Why is the Spector family selling the building? Your typical family feud. Parents build the business. Siblings fight over the money. Apparently the three sisters have spent the last three years in court with multiple cross complaints. It sounds like they were ordered to sell the building and go their separate ways. Sad.

  34. Posted by Linda

    Sorry they are having to relocate from their current location. It was handy to all levels of expertise in sewing. This a bad decision on the new owners part.

  35. Posted by Sara Short

    Businesses that are new, should sue the city for the unfair competition and economic segregation they suffer because of the “legacy” business give away. Ignorant “progressives” forget that their programs to help some, always hurt others.

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