A developer with ties to the Soho House chain of private clubs and hotels has paid a reported $65 million for the landmark San Francisco Armory at 1800 Mission Street in the Mission which had been home to Kink.com.

Peter Acworth, the founder of Kink, purchased the century-old armory for $14.5 million in 2006 and transformed the building into a studio for his porn business.

Prior to Acworth’s purchase, plans to convert the then-derelict building into condos were being explored but met with neighborhood (and financial) opposition.

And prior to Acworth’s sale, plans to convert 120,000 square feet of Kink’s former studio into traditional office space, while preserving the building’s 39,000-square-foot drill court under the curved roof for spectator sports, arts or other entertainment uses, were in the works and closer to reality.

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Dave

    This developer specializes in very upscale resorts/hotels. Is he planning that for this location? If so, and looking at his portfolio of properties, this seems a bit too far off the beaten track for a pricey/upscale hotel/club. Perhaps he’ll revisit previous plans to turn it into condos.

    Is this a designated historic landmark? Presumably the developer will not be able to change/touch the exterior. Also, it may be iffy if he can build up a floor or two depending on the historic status and height limits. That said, any idea as to how many condos (medium sized) could fit into the building envelope?

    • Posted by SFRealist

      I’ve walked past it. It’s a huge building with very small windows.

      • Posted by Dave

        Yeah, I think there was a military reason for the windows having to be small. Assuming it is converted to condos the small windows will be perfect – the non-elite class is apparently offended by large windows. So I am told.

        • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

          The design of the exterior is puzzling. On one hand small windows are easier to defend. On the other hand they chose to use clinker brick which make walls easy to climb.

          • Posted by Dave

            I think there are rampart like things at the top of the building where the defenders can pour hot oil on anyone trying to scale the outside walls. Or not.

            Brick is beautiful but this building and the clinker brick are ugly. Of course it was built for function and not form. At least it has an excuse.

            The exterior could be spruced up with awnings and such but if it is basically untouchable the focus will have to turn to making the gutted interior really special. Maybe they could do an interior courtyard so the condos could have some large windows and look out on a landscaped garden area.

          • Posted by SFwatcher

            Guys, the Armory was built 104 years ago and was aesthetically designed to mimic the castles of old times. Small windows, turrets, ramparts,… it’s all form, not function, today as well as back then.

          • Posted by curmudgeon

            I would actually argue it was built for form not function.

            Obviously no one in the 20th century was defending ramparts by pouring hot oil off of them. Similarly the small windows….are mimicking a medieval castle and were by no means required for its original use. The fact is armories like this were built all over the country, and the vernacular was the medieval castle form, just as college campuses mined gothic and greek revival architecture. It was all style, no substance.

          • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

            I’m sure that it is *mostly* form over function. However parts of the structure are defensive, like the lack of street level windows. An armory contains weapons after all. It was built to the security standards of a bank.

          • Posted by Leland

            I used to work for Kink, fun times! In any case, it’s a reproduction of a Moorish castle.

          • Posted by Notcom

            At the time it was built it was described as “medieval Florentine”…which one may, or may not, wish to believe. It also became a source of controversy as to both its location and appearance: (then) Mayor Rolph served on a commission that attempted to influence the design…if you can conceive of SF pols sticking their noses into planning matters !!

    • Posted by Kraus

      The Armory is in the UMU District — which doesn’t allow hotels. Accordingly, if they intend a hotel use at this location, they’ll have to get a substantial Zoning change.

      • Posted by Hunter

        Hotels are not allowed in our “urban mixed-use” districts? Seems absurd. We need a decent hotel in every ‘hood so we can stop all our visitors from relying on AirBnb.

  2. Posted by steve

    well sold

  3. Posted by folderpete

    Density bonus?

  4. Posted by bachman_erlich_overdrive

    Can only assume the cleaning fee was a point of negotiation.

  5. Posted by Hunter

    well there goes the gas station across the street. Good riddance!

  6. Posted by SFrentier

    Dang the owner can ditch the porn biz on that transaction. Well played sir.

    The interior is rather unique as so much of it is open space. I think it will be hard to make good use of it as condos, offices or hotel without some exterior modifications- at least some serious skylights. Or better yet, a Tate modern approach with a glass canopy on top. Just using the existing will really stifle the options…but they will sure have a big interior courtyard as a feature.

    • Posted by steve

      let’s not forget the natural spring that runs through the basement

    • Posted by anon2.5

      Good money would be on this idea. If you open up the space above the drill court with sky lights, it would make a spectacular Embassy Suites style lobby.

  7. Posted by MDG399

    wow – SOHO House is a very nice brand. Set the mind reading about the possibilities!

  8. Posted by Emely

    No small amount of irony in the fact that opposition shot down housing and now this is likely to turn into what is basically a perfect representative of gentrification…

    I wonder what they’ll do with the stream in the basement!

    • Posted by MDG399

      I can see it now: “City Trout Stream….”

  9. Posted by Metroliner

    Considering the Armory just went through a huge renovation of the drill court to turn it into a concert/dance venue with all of the attendant soundproofing and permitting, I am going to place my bets on that the administration building will be turned into a hotel with a rooftop pool.

  10. Posted by sardonicisme

    This building will present substantial challenges.

    It is historic, and not only the exterior will need to be preserved, but also most likely significant portions of the interior. UMU zoning does not allow hotels, as someone else previously mentioned. The entertainment venue might need to be replaced in part or whole to support the price paid for this property.

    Further complicating matters, Proposition X requires the preservation of PDR uses and the adult film business that occurred throughout this facility was deemed a PDR use. Then of course, you also need community “buy-in” which, in the Mission, is no simple matter.

    An exciting project, no doubt, but also one that will consume time, money, and patience with a somewhat unpredictable outcome.

    • Posted by Pablito

      “the adult film business that occurred throughout this facility was deemed a PDR use”. SF Planning makes many questionable decisions – but now I think I have heard everything. A PDR use. Sigh.

  11. Posted by Mission Almost Local

    Is the Armory in a different zoning than UMU, or a sub-zone of it? It appears to be in the Mission Street corridor, which looks like it is zoned differently and hotels are conditional use?

    On this it appears to be in C-3-G zoning, which is also conditional use for hotels per this.

    • Posted by SocketSite

      It would appear as though you’re misreading the color-coded key of your referenced zoning map. The historic Armory building’s parcel is, in fact, zoned UMU (Urban Mixed Use).

  12. Posted by Mary Ellen Doyle

    Other, more humane cities, use their armories to house people who are homeless during the winter months….

  13. Posted by pal

    Ok so I was convinced this was some type of foreign money laundering ploy b/c how could there be $65M of value there. Then did the calculations out and if at full capacity as a hotel, they can probably make their money back in 7 years at average hotel rates for SF, given the square footage. So I realize there’s some question about zoning, but if they do find the right person to bribe, looks good for them!

    • Posted by pal

      ^ That’s before operating costs & rehab costs, etc.

    • Posted by SFrentier

      Yes the bldg does have a lot of square feet (do you have the number handy to post here?) But a lot of the interior space won’t be functional without an internal courtyard or at least massive skylights, Which means you’ll still need multistory atriums inside…all reducing useable square feet of liveable space for hotel rooms, condos, etc.

      I dunno, $64mil sounds absolutely nuts to me. More 1/3 that value, given the useful square feet limitations, historic landmark limitations, zoning limitations. So unless I’m missing something, I’m smelling more of a rich persons vanity project here…

      • Posted by SFrentier

        ^ also windows issue. Very few windows. How the heck do you make a decent hotel without changing the facade big time (and good luck fighting historic preservation committee on that.)

      • Posted by sardonicisme

        Something along these lines:
        Basement: 65,000 plus sf
        1st Floor: 20,000 sf
        2nd Floor: 15,000 sf
        3rd Floor: 20,000 sf
        4th Floor: 20,000 sf

        Covered Event space
        1st floor: 40,000 sf
        Mezzanine: unknown

        Total: 180,000 approximately, or $361 psf @$65M

  14. Posted by Corin Frost

    This will be a new SoHo house, giving the Battery some much needed competition.

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