the most heavily-armored porn studio in town

Kink.com aquires San Francisco Armory for $14.5 million
This 200,000 square foot reproduction Moorish Castle was completed in 1914 and was used as a National Guard facility until 1976. It is full of period detail including cavernous dungeon-like basements, stone staircases, sweeping corridors, and a gigantic drill court spanning almost an acre. During rioting in San Francisco in 1934, it served as both a barricade and safety point for officers.

"I have been excited about the Armory ever since I first toured it 18 months ago," says Peter Acworth, CEO and Founder of Kink.com. "It is a historic monument with amazing character and I believe it has wonderful potential as a movie production studio. The building has not been used in 30 years and I look forward to an exciting restoration project and helping revive San Francisco's movie industry."

I thought that building would be empty forever! I had assumed it was some kind of earthquake-retrofit sacrifice zone, where the cost of fixing it was more than that of destroying it, but it was too landmarky to ever raze.

Anyway, there are some awesome pictures:

Update: Here's a history of that building written in 2000, and the nightmares that many people have had trying to develop it, mostly due to shortsighted neighborhood activists who would prefer the entire block to stay empty.

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58 Responses:

  1. Now every morning and evening I can walk by it and try NOT to think of the spanky-spanky going on inside.

  2. gordonzola says:

    Awesome! We looked at it back in 1994 and knew we couldn't afford it.

    And now it will be such a happy place!

  3. i grew up right next to that building. can't wait to see it done up and actually being used.

  4. phoenixredux says:

    That's some amazing real estate. I don't even want to imagine the price tag. I heard they kinda got screwed on the deal, but they don't seem to mind.

  5. djverablue and i have been debating the what and wherefore of that building forever.

    i guess i'm fairly amused that the answer to "so, what's going on in there?" is now "women are being paid to have sex with machines". it's a far better answer than "it's an office building".

  6. liveavatar says:

    Good for them -- what a public service they're doing. I'm happy to simply see those gorgeous photos.

  7. HOLY SHIT.

    My friend's been living in the Armory for three years, in a 36' Airstream, acting as the "caretaker" for a dollar a month:

    http://project345.org/

    I wonder what he's going to do now.

  8. buz says:

    Hmmmm - maybe I'll move back to the Mission.

    Many years ago I walked by and there was a helicopter flying IN the building. No shit. I forgot what movie that was for (anyone?), but damn - you don't see that every day.

  9. kumimonster says:

    oh wow
    what a great public service kink.com will be doing for the city of san francisco.

    oh the, fucking machines, butt fuckingmachines, men in pain, and water bondage scenes the world, in fact, will be able to appreciate and adore.
    BAHAHAHAA
    the movie (porn/bdsm) industry will never truly leave the Valley, but this is going to redirect a nice big chunk of it.

    heh. i just cant wait for the first openhouse party!
    oh, and the places for shows and suspensions!
    ooh i'm just imagining the places i can er, hang around.

    • phoenixredux says:

      Is it any wonder why people from flyover states like mine want to live in San Francisco? It's so beautiful, it brings tears to my eyes.

  10. ladykalessia says:

    Wow, what an amazing space. Seeing the RV in there gives a much better idea of the scale of the place. It opens up some interesting rigging questions as well.

  11. ladykalessia says:

    Don't read headlines much, do you?

    I think for the amount of raw square footage they're getting, in the particular location, they may not have gotten as screwed as one might think.

    • phoenixredux says:

      I saw the price after I posted it. And apparently, once again, my humor has failed.

    • latemodel says:

      They might still be screwed — the place needs major seismic retrofit. That's gonna cost them.

      • deificar says:

        Hehe...you said screwed...

      • lhoriman says:

        Nope. Turns out it's in pretty good shape, seismically. The brick is a facade; it's all concrete and steel underneath. We won't have to do a refit unless we make major structual modifications.

        • jwz says:

          Huh. Any idea why it didn't turn into condos ten years ago? I figured there had to be some catch that stopped that...

          • lhoriman says:

            Continuous, vocal opposition from the community, although I suspect the historic landmark status of the building complicated the process. The previous owner had been trying to get the necessary permits for the better part of a decade after the original plans fell through. Apparently it was bought by a dotcom consortium during the boom for ~$30 million with the intention of turning it into a data center.

            I don't really understand the oppostion. I used to live a block away from the building. I'd say the neighborhood could do with a little bit of "gentrification".

            • latemodel says:

              I'd say the neighborhood could do with a little bit of "gentrification".

              Gentrification, sure, or just some foot traffic. I'm glad that someone will be using the building, because it's better than just having an entitre block empty. Call me old-fashioned, but having any use of that area would be beneficial.

              • jwz says:

                I haven't read that book, but it sounds like it's probably a similar to this old favorite rant, Home From Nowhere. (Kunstler's really shrill in general, but he makes some good points.) For more hating on SF neighborhood associations, there's Welcome Home from 1999. That's the article that convinced me that the biggest problem with this city is that there is too much parking, and that public transportation will not improve until using cars in town gets way, way less convenient than it already is.

                • latemodel says:

                  Jacobs is in the same vein, perhaps, but we could argue for a while about how similar Death and Life is to Kunstler's rant.

                  Basically, Jacobs is the inspiration for the entire New Urbanist school, for better or worse. Death and Life is worth reading, at least a few chapters, for Jacobs' brilliant, mechanistic exegesis of just how urban space works. Not just what's wrong with it; what's right. And not just that certain things are pretty, or pleasant, but why that's so.

                • zapevaj says:

                  Funny you should mention- I just read this article in the New York Times, and was about to get all offended that they side with the city government, until I read this bit:

                  "It's too dense for people to drive easily and not dense enough for really great public transit,"

                  They kinda have a point. Parking is not bad -enough- that people simply don't try to park downtown. I remember being able to find parking spaces within a block or two of most clubs, as opposed to Manhattan, where people do not even fucking think of it. The main obstacle to transitioning from a "bad car city" to a "good public transit city", however, is probably the bureaucratic nightmare known as MUNI.

            • movingfinger says:

              Every time anyone has tried to do anything productive with that building, the community weighs in and bogs down the planning and permit process, demanding community center, community theater space, community teen center, community gym, etc., depending on which activist with a pet project is leading the hounds. Here's the most recent debacle. I particularly like claims that parking would be made difficult in the area.

              The landmark status of the building complicated (and thwarted) schemes that required alterations, but by now it may be possible to make (necessary non-intrusive) changes because of the history of people walking away from the project there.

              Perhaps contacting previous owners (say, going back 20 years) and asking them about what their tenure was like and what happened would yield some valuable cautionary tales and prevent history from being repeated. I'm sure you've all done homework, but unless you've been following the wretched building for a long time, you may not realize how bad it has been. I hope you guys are the lucky, smart ones.

              • latemodel says:

                I totally agree with your reservations; I'll believe it when I see it.

                That said, Peter is different in one major respect from the previous owners: He's not a developer. Rather, he has purchased the space to relocate an existing business. I can't swear that this makes it easier, but what he's doing simply has to require less work with the City's Building, Inspectional, and Zoning divisions. And the less time they spend there, the less the city can interfere. According to an October 2000 SFBG article, Coppola's plan to use the place as a movie studio failed for lack of interested tenants, not neighborhood or bureaucratic interference. Say what you will, but it's pretty clear that Peter's got the "interested tenants" problem licked but good.

                Also, note that Eikon bought the place for $30M around 2000; Peter is buying it now for less than half that amount.

                • lhoriman says:

                  Exactly. We can make use of the building as-is. No major reconstruction therefore no seismic retrofits and no permitting problems. While Peter and the marketing department are very interested in keeping the community happy, we ultimately don't need to rely on their approval.

                  We've spent small fortunes trying to create sets that look like many of the Armory's creepier-looking corners. Then we've cried tearing down those sets to make room for others. Not any more.

                  • latemodel says:

                    So how close are you guys to supporting this project (mortgage if any, taxes, upkeep, utilities, etc.) on the current revenue stream? I mean, obviously it'd be nice to be able to bring in outside income by renting various parts for other purposes, but in the worst-case scenario where all other uses are thwarted, can the company survive?

                  • lhoriman says:

                    It's not a speculative investment in that sense. Our expectations are based on internal use. I hesitate to say much more than that; Peter's pretty open about the business (see the 7x7 article "The New Pornographers") but I don't want to mis-guess his boundaries.

                    Unless something dramatic happens to the landscape of the adult industry, we should be fine. Even in the worst-case scenario, the damage would not likely be mortal.

            • kumimonster says:

              and perhaps the city finally realized the possibility of jobs - or something.

              it's just good for business n stuff

              (nice ta meet u, u work there too now? i'm kumi. i dont work for cybernet tho i know the peter n matt n the rest).

  12. kumimonster says:

    ahh, but the grass is always greener sometimes...

    sometimes i wish i hung out with more 'normal' people too

  13. baconmonkey says:

    AUTHENTIC STEAMPUNK FUCKINGMACHINE PORN

  14. chuck_lw says:

    >I wonder what he's going to do now.

    Oh, he's not allowed to leave now.:-P

    He may already be chained and gagged.

  15. pdx6 says:

    I've actually been curious about that building myself. Over the past 30 years there have been various plans to convert the armory, mostly into condos. Here is one of the mock layouts, putting condos on *top* of the armory, crazy stuff.

    If anyone wants to live next to the future kink/torture chamber, Woodward Street, once a garden grander than Golden Gate Park (turned into 'condos' in 1910), has some some of the most inexpensive TIC's in the city, and without the street urination.

    • latemodel says:

      Without the urination? I bought a TIC on Albion St. because I thought Woodward was too janky. And I have people literally shitting on my house.

      • pdx6 says:

        I didn't see anyone peeing the few times I went down Woodward. I didn't say anything about defecation.

        defecatingHumanScum--

  16. deificar says:

    Is that water or not? And what is that if it is?

    Spooooooky! :)

  17. lhoriman says:

    Here's a set of pictures taken by the IT staff on an afternoon wandering around the building:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/latchkey/sets/72157594406168606/

  18. gunsafety says:

    I seriously have to question the idea behind creating an Armory which had walls that scream out "Climb me!"

  19. lohphat says:

    Pity the Coalition for Romanticizing and Encouraging Poverty keeps thwarting progress. There's not enough urine-soaked buildings in SF for my taste.