Planting Community Benefits in Unlikely Places: 300,000 SQFT Storage Center Includes 67,000 SQFT Community Garden

By Meghan Hall

On its Eastern side, the City of San Francisco has seen a rapid evolution from industrial-heavy commercial spaces to high-end mixed-use developments, causing a rapid decline in the availability of production and storage space in one of the Bay Area’s most cramped markets. Consequently, San Francisco city officials are keeping careful watch of developments on the east side and enforcing existing zoning laws as much as possible, even when developers and investors have other plans. Bay Area-based Nestory Park also had plans to redevelop a commercial storage facility into a high-performing retail and community space for its property at 2285 Jerrold Ave. but was asked by the city to work within the site’s current Production, Distribution and Repair (PDR) zoning. Still wanting to incorporate a community space into its plans, Nestory Park proposed a 307,033 square foot commercial storage facility with an unusual feature for this type of development: a 66,916 square foot urban agricultural rooftop garden.

“The mission of Nestory Park is revitalization and renewal of communities in need, and when working with the City given current zoning and based on the fact that our background is in self-storage, we thought about how to create an energy and a vitality in the Bayview that doesn’t currently exist,” explained Virginia Dolan, director of operations and member experience at Nestory Park. “By incorporating green living as a more complete and full experience that everyone has access to, people will come to see and use the space.”

Nestory Park hopes the garden will not only contribute toward its goals of sustainability for the site, but provide the community with an active and engaging space that would contribute to the Bayview neighborhood.

“I think we’ve landed on something amazing for the community, which was our intent from the start,” said Nestory Park’s Chief Executive Officer and Founder David Flaherty. The project’s urban green roof will be designed by Carmel, Calif.,-based Rana Creek, who also designed green roofs for the California Academy of Sciences and the Salesforce Transit Center.

Currently, the project site is occupied by a Stop ‘n Stor Mini Storage, although it will be demolished to make room for the upgraded facilities. Nestory Park’s plans for the six-story development also include 2,498 square feet of retail sales and service space, 15 vehicular parking spaces and five loading spaces. According Flaherty, the commercial storage warehouse will include units that are a variety of sizes, although specific sizes and quantities of each unit type have not yet been determined. However, the project team is planning on incorporating modular construction into its design to provide its future tenants with more flexible storage spaces.

“There is going to be a combination of larger and smaller spaces, because commercial uses are different,” said Flaherty. “Some businesses need more space, while others need less. You need to get the right mix, and it’s sort of a science.”

Initially, Nestory Park and the development team had planned on lining the commercial storage space portion of the development with retailers, to create a one-stop type of facility where businesses could produce and sell their wares.

“Nestory Park is about adaptive re-use around failed retail,” said Flaherty. “When we originally approached the City, we were going to rim the perimeter of our facility with active businesses that would have a front door, a name and some type of storage, where they could both create and sell.”

Flaherty admitted that while the City liked Nestory Park’s proposal, they asked the development team to focus on creating a project that used the existing zoning. However, Flaherty said that the need for commercial self-storage and spaces like it within the City of San Francisco is extremely high.

“If you’re a business today and need to store something, there is no place to store,” said Flaherty. “[Commercial storage spaces] have been torn down and converted to office buildings or ‘higher and better’ uses. The only commercial self-storage at-scale that we know that exists is the Cow Palace.”

The Jerrold Ave. site is aptly situated to cater to such businesses; the Bayview neighborhood is heavily commercial already, and the site is surrounded by businesses such as New Century Custom Cabinet, Floramor Studio Florist, EC Auto Body and Metalmen Sheet Metal Products.

“We’re actively going to solicit the business community at a very different level in the Bayview than other businesses have done,” said Flaherty.

The City of San Francisco released its preliminary project assessment for the development at the beginning of December 2018, and Nestory Park hopes to wrap up the approvals process throughout 2019 and break ground on the development in 2020.

“With the track record we have on this site, we are going to proceed immediately [with construction],” said Flaherty. “I think we’re going to make the Bayview proud, meaning that the building itself will be something different.”

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