By Meghan Hall
A vacant commercial asset in San Francisco’s Lower Polk neighborhood has been transformed into a 75-bed navigation center thanks to the collaborative efforts of a public-private partnership determined to meet the needs of the City’s transitional youth. The Lower Polk Tay Navigation Center officially opened its doors in February after four years of careful planning and embodies a future of “collective prosperity,” according to the project team.
“This has been a four-year labor of love and work to open a Navigation Center in District 3,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin in a statement. “I’m delighted that San Francisco is a model for the rest of the state and country with the opening of the City’s first TAY Navigation Center, which will serve the unique needs of young adults before they become permanently entrenched in a cycle of homelessness. I want to acknowledge the Lower Polk community for being so gracious, welcoming, and engaged in this collective effort.”
Located at 700 Hyde Street and 888 Post Street, the property was once occupied by House of Fans, a retailer of home appliances. The navigation center will specifically serve homeless youth between the ages of 18 and 24, and is the first of its kind in San Francisco to specifically cater to Transitional Age Youth (TAY). The project team included Tidewater Capital, a San Francisco-based real estate investment and development company, as well as Skyline Capital Builders, who served as general contractor for the project. The office of Charles F. Blozies acted as architect, while a number of other City agencies, such as the Departments of Real Estate, Public Works and Homelessness and Supportive Housing also collaborated on the project.
“Tidewater is deeply committed to creating long-term positive economic, cultural, social and environmental impact in neighborhoods throughout the Bay Area. With the Lower Polk TAY Navigation Center, we saw a huge opportunity to invest in our community in a lasting way that was fully aligned with our mission,” explained Tidewater Capital’s CEO, Craig Young. “…This project represented a strategic way for Tidewater to engage with the City’s campaign to help end the cycle of homelessness and for us to implement one of our core beliefs – building community resilience.”
The top floor of the building will serve as the primary sleeping area for guests and also includes an outdoor lounge area, changing rooms, all-gender shower rooms and bathrooms, laundry, clinic space and staff offices. The second floor contains community spaces from meeting rooms and a pantry and dining room.
“Our main object was to create a space that would make a lasting impact on all who enter its doors,” explained Young. “Throughout the development process, we worked with the City to form thoughtful partnerships that provide the transitional aged youths at the center of the project with ample opportunities to not only receive shelter, but also build a sense of community and acquire job-related skills to succeed and become self-sufficient members of society.”
The layout of the building was carefully considered to give residents both the space they need to be comfortable while also providing for an open environment for social interaction and services.
“The Lower Polk TAY Navigation Center mimics dorm-like living for an age group that is largely of college age,” said Young. “We ensured there was privacy for everyone, but also plenty of space for collaboration and connection.”
Residents of the Navigation Center will receive access to medical treatment and mental health services, workforce development support and career training opportunities via onsite providers such as 3rd Street Youth Center and Success Centers. The services provided closely parallel the center’s mission to break the cycle of chronic unemployment and, in some cases, homelessness.
“This project serves as a starting point for lasting change to benefit a group that holds so much potential,” stated Young. “Furthermore, this project can serve as a case study for a successful public private partnership addressing one of our region’s most pressing challenges.”
Currently, the facility is operating in full compliance with city-wide shelter policies and COVID-19 protocols, meaning its short-term capacity will be reduced to 43 beds until restrictions are loosened.
San Francisco continues to face significant challenges when it comes to those experiencing unsheltered homelessness. A 2019 Point-in-Time County estimated that there were over 8,000 individuals experiencing homelessness. Of those, about 5,180 were unsheltered on any given night. Of Transitional Age Youth who identified as homeless during the 2019 Point-in-Time Count, 83 percent were living unsheltered.
San Francisco’s first Navigation Center opened in March and 2015. In the subsequent years, 10 additional navigation centers were built, seven of which are currently in operation, according to the City’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing. The project team of the Lower Polk TAY navigation center hope that this project is just the start.
“We hope that this center is the first of many serving this age group until the City has capacity to shelter its entire TAY homeless population,” said Young. “Transitional aged youths are at a critical juncture in their lives where meaningful intervention can be life changing. We hope that the Center provides a retreat along with valuable resources necessary for these promising yet underserved members of the community to get back on their feet.”