San Francisco

Presidio Seeks Renter With Deep Pockets for Historic Fort Scott

The custodians of San Francisco’s Presidio are searching for a new renter with some pretty specific qualifications: Must be interested in leasing 22 historic buildings; must care for rare military artifacts; must pony-up $200 million for the opportunity.

"It certainly makes the universe of potential users smaller," said Josh Bagley, the Presidio Trust’s head of real estate development.

The Presidio Trust, stewards of the Presidio, have designs on converting the historic Fort Scott cluster of buildings into a "Campus for Change" — it envisions an organization, group or company transforming the twenty-two Mission Revival-style buildings into a campus devoted to social or environmental change. It's accepting applications through June 29th.

Joe Rosato Jr./NBC Bay Area
The 22 buildings at Fort Scott open to a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Presidio Trust is trying to find an organization to turn the fort into a “Campus for Change.”

"Fort Scott has always been held aside for a higher purpose," Bagley said, citing a list of past Presidio projects that include George Lucas’ Letterman Digital Arts Center. The Presidio Trust has a congressional mandate to support the park without tax dollars.

Just what organization will have the interest — and the checkbook — to pull-off a project of such massive scale remains to be seen. Bagley said many of the site’s twenty-two buildings need extensive rehabilitation.

"The site requires all new utility infrastructure," Bagley said. "We have nearly 300 thousand square feet of building space that needs to be rehabilitated and brought up to current codes."

Fort Scott’s oldest buildings date from 1909 as part of the U.S. Army’s coastal artillery defense. Since the Army left the Presidio in 1994, the fort’s buildings have been inhabited by a myriad of purposes; housing Presidio Police, Presidio Trust offices as well as outside organizations. The buildings include the original stockade and a barrack building that houses historic murals painted on the walls by soldiers in the 1950s.

Joe Rosato Jr./NBC Bay Area
Bill and Carol Clewell hold a picture of her grandfather who was stationed at the Presidio during World War I.

The Mission-style buildings encircle a large parade ground with a ringside view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The enclave is surrounded by the Presidio’s wooded greenery and wildlife is a familiar sight on the grounds. The trust said the outdoor space will remain open to the public even after the buildings are converted into a campus.

"What better way to have your creativity sparked," said Lew Springer, the Presidio’s Associate Dir. of Natural Resources, "by looking out the window and seeing a great blue heron catching a gopher or a coyote ambling through and laying down in the grasses."

During a recent public tour of the grounds, Carol Clewell took-in the collection of buildings with an added sense of wonderment. Clewell’s grandfather was stationed in the Presidio in 1914 during World War I, and her grandparents lived on the base in military housing.

"It's just this whole area has a special place in my heart," Clewell said.

Joe Rosato Jr./NBC Bay Area
The 22 buildings at Fort Scott open to a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Presidio Trust is trying to find an organization to turn the fort into a “Campus for Change.”

Some have speculated a large company like Google could use the site as a campus for one of its social change organizations. Bagley said the Presidio Trust has received some interest in the project — but didn’t reveal any potential candidates. He said the Presidio would consider proposals from any company or organization.

Bagley said the Presidio would post the proposals on its website after June 29th deadline and begin soliciting public feedback — in a sense filling the inkwell to write the next chapter of Fort Scott’s long history.

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