SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department announced the Request for Concept Proposals (RFCP) for the long-term lease of the iconic Palace of Fine Arts building (the “Palace”). Designed by renowned architect Bernard Maybeck for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) and World Fair, the beloved Palace has housed some of the world’s most cherished pieces of art and for years served as the home of the Exploratorium.
“On behalf of the City and County of San Francisco, I am pleased to announce a unique business opportunity in one of San Francisco’s most iconic properties, the Palace of Fine Parts,” said Phil Ginsburg, SF Rec and Park General Manager. “Approaching the centennial of the Palace, the City welcomes ideas on how to partner with us in preserving the Palace and to re-imagine the building that can be enjoyed by San Franciscans for generations to come.”
SF Park and Rec is now offering the Palace for long-term lease as part of an innovative public-private partnership structured to ensure this critical historic building is preserved for public use. Unlike many historic buildings, the Palace has an open floor plan and, subject to a design and approval process, may be altered to allow improved natural light and dramatic view of San Francisco Bay. Today, the building comprises more than 140,000 square feet, but architectural studies suggest the possibility (with appropriate approvals) of increasing the square footage to as much as 175,000 square feet without exterior additions.
The Palace may be repurposed for “recreational use,” a category that permits a wide variety of uses that would welcome the public while also generating revenue to offset the selected tenant’s investment costs.
The Palace was widely celebrated as the finest structure built for the PPIE. With the Palace, Maybeck established a new standard for civic design by showing a global audience what critics have proclaimed “a perfect marriage between architecture and landscape.” Incorporating an ancient tidal basin into his plan, Maybeck demonstrated how nature could serve as a vital design element in modern architecture.
Since 1915, the Palace complex has undergone three significant restorations. This beautiful structure has received a century of overwhelming support and protection so that its extraordinary integrity remains acclaimed. In 1959, San Francisco voters approved $1.8 million bond measure to restore the Palace to its original glorious form. These funds, coupled with $2 million from the State of California, and $4.5 million from civic leader Walter S. Johnson, underwrote the recasting of the Palace of Fine Arts in permanent materials in the 1960s. Then a seismic retrofit in 1993 was performed and most recently in 2010, the Maybeck Foundation in partnership with SF Rec and Park completed an extensive $21 million renovation of the Palace grounds and rotunda. The renovation was completed through funding by generous support from more than 1,200 lovers of the Palace as well as State and local resources. Today, the Palace continues to be an international landmark attracting millions of visitors each year.
The RFCP represents a ground-breaking opportunity for a tenant to present an innovative vision and creative use of the Palace for years to come, provided that the use will also allow significant and meaningful public access. Some upgrades to the Palace are required and a process for public review and regulatory body approval is in place throughout the selection and negotiation of the concept proposal and lease agreement for those who have presented inventive uses of the Palace. For more information, please visit https://sfrecpark.org/palace-of-fine-arts-request-for-concept-proposals/.