SAN FRANCISCO – Offering fresh food amid the flourishing Civic Center Plaza, Bi-Rite Cafe opened its doors today, serving the neighborhood’s appetite for nourishing options and a welcoming gathering space.
The opening of the cafe is the latest attraction transforming the area into a destination for neighborhood families, visitors from across the City and tourists alike. It is steps from two state-of-the-art playgrounds opened earlier this year and a cornerstone of a major effort to enliven the public spaces linking Market Street and City Hall with outdoor art, free performances, and regular family friendly events.
Bringing the cafe to the plaza was a collaboration between the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the Civic Center Community Benefit District (CCCBD). Bi-Rite, the operator of the new cafe, is a local family-owned institution since 1940. Architecture firm WRNS Studio led the design.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed was among the first to welcome Bi-Rite to the neighborhood.
“As someone who spends a lot of time in the Civic Center area, I am excited to see Bi-Rite Cafe open,” said Mayor Breed. “Between the new Helen Diller Playgrounds, monthly Civic Center block parties, and the opening of Bi-Rite, we are activating this important community space to better serve residents, families, and visitors.”
The cafe was born from broad community input during the planning process for the new playgrounds requesting more fresh food options.
“We are committed to serving the growing Civic Center and Tenderloin neighborhoods while creating a destination that brings people from across San Francisco, the Bay Area and around the world out to eat, play, and enjoy the arts at the center of the city,” said San Francisco Recreation and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg.
Bi-Rite Family of Businesses was chosen due to its deep, multi-generational ties to San Francisco and its long history of creating space where community members could deepen their relationships with food and each other. The Bi-Rite Family also includes 18 Reasons, a nonprofit community cooking school. Bi-Rite has significant ties to the neighborhood, ensuring residents on public assistance have access to fresh produce through the EBT Market Match program at Heart of the City Farmers’ Market. Its partnerships have also included Episcopal Community Services’ CHEFS Program, the Tenderloin Healthy Corner Store Coalition and Project Open Hand.
“The Civic Center is such an important, iconic part of San Francisco and we’re excited to have this opportunity to continue our mission of creating community through food and to deepen our relationship with Civic Center and surrounding communities,” explained Sam Mogannam, founding partner of Bi-Rite Family of Businesses. “And as a native San Franciscan, I’m proud to have a role in helping the Plaza be a safe and welcoming place for families and visitors to enjoy the delicious, responsibly sourced, local food they deserve.”
To encourage learning and healthy food choices, Bi-Rite Cafe is partnering with San Francisco Public Library’s Main Branch to provide whole, fresh fruit to children and teens who visit the library’s Children’s Room or Teen Center. Every time they visit, kids will receive a special Bi-Rite sticker, which they can then show to the Cafe staff to receive a free piece of fruit. The Cafe has also been actively working with the City’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development to hire staff directly from the neighborhood.
Funding for the cafe came from a $2 million Mercer Fund grant made in honor of Helen Diller, whose family foundation awarded the generous $10 million donation to fund the design and construction of two vibrant, state-of-the-art playgrounds, at no cost to the City.
“My parents were native San Franciscans and we are honored to be a part of the team working on this important project,” said Helen Diller Family Foundation President Jackie Safier, whose parents started the foundation in 1999. “The care and thought put into each detail by everyone involved has been a labor of love.”
Through the Trust for Public Land, the Foundation donated the funds to the Civic Center Plaza community in 2013 to provide a central gathering space where families can play while enjoying local, healthy food. In partnership with SF Rec and Park, TPL led the community engagement, design, and construction of the playgrounds and cafe.
“San Francisco truly is a leader in park access, with 100 percent of San Franciscans living within a 10-minute walk of a park,” said Diane Regas, president and CEO of The Trust for Public Land. “We’re proud to help make Civic Center Plaza a crowd-favorite destination for fun, outdoor inspiration and now, refreshment.”
Responsible for the cafe’s building management, the Civic Center Community Benefit District will reinvest the rent collected from Bi-Rite directly back into the Civic Center Plaza open spaces and playgrounds.
For the past several years at Civic Center Plaza, SF Rec and Park has offered classes and games for adults and youth such as Zumba, soccer, bocce ball, kickball, and volleyball as well as weekly food trucks in partnership with Off the Grid. Building upon the momentum championed by the Department, the City has launched the Civic Center Commons Initiative, a collaborative effort to breathe new life into the City’s central civic spaces so people who live, work and play nearby can enjoy free outdoor cultural events in the heart of San Francisco.
The elegant design of the cafe was led by architecture firm WRNS Studio. With California local stone, intricate stainless steel, and gates that open on all sides to form a canopy, the design creates a welcoming sense of place that complements both the new playgrounds and the historic architecture of the surrounding Civic Center buildings. The cafe draws in visitors and encourages enjoyment of the park and surrounding views.
Also integral to the project were the San Francisco Planning Commission, Public Works, Office of Economic and Workforce Development, Arts Commission, Historic Preservation Commission, Department of Building Inspection, Office of the City Administrator and Hunters Point Family.
Bi-Rite Cafe, located at 52 Grove Street, will be open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. The menu offers breakfast and lunch all day and includes healthy, kid-friendly options. The cafe will also feature Bi-Rite Creamery soft serve ice cream and a full espresso bar and coffee program featuring Sightglass Coffee.
More on San Francisco Recreation and Park Department
The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department currently manages more than 220 parks, playgrounds and open spaces throughout San Francisco, including two outside city limits. The system includes full-complex recreation centers, swimming pools, golf courses, sports fields and numerous small-to-medium-sized clubhouses that offer a variety of sports- and arts-related recreation programs for people of all ages.
More on the Helen Diller Family Foundation
The Helen Diller Family Foundation has supported a number of programs and institutions in the Bay Area and throughout the world, including other award-winning playground renovations in the city, such as the Helen Diller Play Area at Julius Kahn Playground in the Presidio and the recent Helen Diller playground in Mission Dolores Park.
More on The Trust for Public Land
The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live near a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.
More on Bi-Rite Family of Businesses
In addition to the Cafe, the Bi-Rite Family of Businesses includes two neighborhood Markets, a Creamery, a full-service catering operation, and a small farm. Bi-Rite is also a Certified B Corp. To learn more, visit biritemarket.com.
More on the Civic Center Community Benefit District
The Civic Center Community Benefit District (CCCBD) improves and promotes San Francisco’s historic Civic Center through a host of planning, policy and public programming initiatives. In addition to focused and responsive neighborhood clean and safe programs, CCCBD provides public open space beautification, activation and advocacy on behalf of the area’s diverse constituency.
More on WRNS Studio
WRNS Studio has been responsible for numerous projects that enhance the public realm in San Francisco, including Boeddeker Park and Hayes Valley Playground.
More on the Civic Center Commons Initiative
The Civic Center Commons Initiative is a collaborative effort among the City of San Francisco and neighbors, community organizations, and cultural institutions to breathe new life into the City’s central civic spaces, changing how people engage with the place and with each other so that everyone can feel welcome and experience the best of San Francisco every day. Led by the City of San Francisco in partnership with neighbors, community organizations, and cultural institutions, the initiative is transforming Civic Center Plaza, UN Plaza, and Fulton Street between the Main Library and the Asian Art Museum with San Francisco-style attractions such as the Helen Diller Civic Center Playgrounds, the new Bi-Rite Café and Village Artist Corner at the Asian Art Museum; innovative workforce development partnerships that help keep the area clean and safe while providing jobs for people facing barriers to employment; and frequent free events, markets, recreational activities, and whimsical art installations that are changing how people engage with the space and each other. For more information, please visit www.civiccentercommons.org.