By Jack Stubbs
“As we’ve always promised, this agreement guarantees that a new Flower Mart will be constructed right here at 6th and Brannan,” Mike Grisso, senior vice president of Kilroy Realty Corporation said during the June 29th media press conference and signing ceremony attended by members from Kilroy Realty Corporation, the San Francisco Flower Mart Tenants’ Association, the San Francisco Flower Mart LLC and the city of San Francisco. The event, held at 640 Brannan St., included the signing of a tri-party agreement that ends the proposed November ballot initiative that had the potential to stop the redevelopment of the San Francisco Flower Mart.
Due to the terms of the agreement, Kilroy will provide rent protection for the current tenants and will redevelop the Flower Mart as a mixed-use, state-of-the-art wholesale flower market on the existing site. The project includes a 115,000 square foot Flower Mart wholesale warehouse, 10,000 square feet of Flower Mart retail space, 20,000 square feet of neighborhood retail space, 1.5 million square feet of office space, a 150,000 square foot parking and loading area, and one acre of an open space public plaza. While the project still needs to go through the city’s approval process, construction is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2017. The expected completion date for the project is sometime in the fourth quarter of 2019.
Also discussed at the press conference were the broader details of the agreement between Kilroy and the tenants’ association regarding the new project. The deal is a collaborative agreement wherein current tenants will be able to provide their input, according to Grisso. “We said from the start that we would work closely with the tenants and make sure they’re involved with the design of the project and that the future rents would be affordable,” he said.
While Grisso could not disclose specific details about rents, he emphasized that they would be reasonable and would allow tenants to remain at the redeveloped location for years to come. “[The rents] are way below market and they’re going to help the flower mart vendors continue in the future and stay here for as long as [possible],” he said. During construction of the new project, current tenants will be relocated to a temporary location somewhere in the city. “We’re still working on securing that site, and the tenants will be able to operate there with minimum disruption during construction,” Grisso added. In the terms of the agreement, tenants also have approval rights of the temporary relocation site.
An exciting prospect for both the developer and the tenants, the imminent redevelopment of the Flower Mart at 6th and Brannan St.—a project that allows the Flower Mart to remain in the vibrant SoMa neighborhood—fits into a long history and tradition associated with the institution. “The Flower Mart is not just a 102-year-old institution of San Francisco. [It is] a place that is full of stories and of multiple generations of families from around the world that have made the Flower Mart their home,” District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim said. For many of the tenants, the space represents not only an occupation, but a livelihood as well. “[Many of the tenants] grew up in the Flower Mart their entire lives, following in the footsteps of their parents, cutting flowers, building their craft every day, arranging unique wreaths and bouquets,” Kim added.
The tri-party agreement is a momentous occasion for all involved, considering the history that has led up to this moment, according to Rob Shibata, owner and operator of Mt. Eden Floral Company. “As part of the tenants association, I can say that reaching this agreement has been like running a relay race. Many people have run their leg of the race and deserve credit for getting this agreement to the finish line today,” he said. Just as all three parties involved in the agreement worked tirelessly to make it a reality, the hope is that everyone in the surrounding community will also benefit from its impact.
On a local scale, the agreement will help to sustain and strengthen the surrounding community. “Saving the Flower Mart means that locally owned businesses will be able to continue to call this space here in SoMa their home for generations to come. We will be preserving industrial production distribution and manufacturing spaces that SoMa has historically been known for,” Supervisor Kim said. While local businesses will undoubtedly benefit from the deal, the broader San Francisco community was very much in support of the Flower Mart as an institution—over 20,000 San Francisco residents signed a ballot measure in support of the space.
The redevelopment of the Flower Mart shows a long-term commitment to the larger flower industry, according to Bob Otsuka, executive vice president and general manager of the San Francisco Flower Mart LLC. “[The project] allows us to continue the flower business and show a commitment to the business going forward,” Otsuka said. While Kilroy’s redevelopment of the San Francisco Flower Mart is certainly a huge coup for the flower business and for the Tenant’s Association, it also has more far-reaching implications. “We’re going to work together to continue selling flowers, and that’s the most important thing, to service the flower needs of the greater Bay Area, the state of California, and the rest of the nation,” Otsuka added.
One important aspect also under consideration is how to make the transition to the market easier, according to Grisso of Kilroy. “What excited us most about this project to begin with was incorporating this [existing] Flower Mart, with all its history and traditions, into the new project,” he said. The new Flower Mart—an expansion and refinement of the existing one—will provide more opportunities for the tenants. “[Right now], they don’t have the capacity to do farmer’s markets and all kinds of industry events that they’ve wanted to do. The new Flower Mart will [help them to do that],” Grisso said. The project’s focus on industrial use also fits into the city’s larger vision for the SoMa neighborhood, according to Grisso.
Ultimately, the culminating agreement reached was a matter of fulfilling old promises. “Promises were made, but in our society, they don’t become real until they’re set down in writing,” Aaron Peskin, former San Francisco supervisor, said. The agreement not only finalizes the practical, financial and logistical details of the new project: it also reaffirms the collaborative and collective nature of the Flower Mart as a longstanding enterprise, according to Shibata. “By signing this agreement, Kilroy has accepted responsibility, not just for the real estate here at 6th and Brannan, but to partner with the tenants and with the management of the Flower Mart, so that they [Kilroy] become part of the Flower Mart as an institution,” said Shibata.