Minnesota Street. That’s…where now? Even native-born San Franciscans might have a hard time pinpointing the narrow, eight-block-long drag on a city map (look down there on the southeastern corner of Dogpatch, just east of Potrero Hill and north of the Bayview). But they’re going to know it a lot better soon: Opening this month, Minnesota Street Project—a gallery hub, a complex of 30 rent-controlled artist studios, and a concierge art-storage facility—has transformed that short, sleepy corridor into the city’s newest and most unusual art district.
The project was conceived by art collectors Deborah and Andy Rappaport two years ago, when the Union Square galleries they had long frequented were beginning to falter. Decades-old Geary Street standbys like Rena Bransten Gallery, Modernbook Gallery (now Themes + Projects), Nancy Toomey Fine Art, and Anglim Gilbert Gallery were becoming victims of rising rents and the gradual gallery-scene migration to the city’s south and east, as well as to the East Bay. “For us,” says Deborah, “the idea of living in a city devoid of art was impossible to contemplate.” Andy, a retired venture capitalist, had some experience investing in real estate, so the couple began to hunt for large-scale buildings to fill what they saw as a depressing void.
They searched in the Bayview, SoMa, and Potrero Hill before settling on the industrial Dogpatch, where buildings are zoned PDR (reserved solely for businesses engaged in production, distribution, and repair), keeping rents comparatively affordable. Their first discovery was 1275 Minnesota Street, a 1937 industrial warehouse that was then home to a local woodworker looking to downsize…
The second site that the Rappaports scooped up, a 22,000-square-foot T-shirt-printing factory just across the street, at 1240 Minnesota, will soon be home to artist studios—all rented at between a quarter and a third of the market rate—as well as a wood shop, a digital studio, and a print studio. The project received 250 applications for 27 permanent spots, which its newly hired studio director, local artist Brion Nuda Rosch, winnowed down. Rosch evaluated applications for a diversity of experience and media, hoping to house artists with roots in painting, sculpture, 3-D and multimedia work, ceramics, and woodwork. The rent-controlled leases will be renewable at the discretion of the tenants—a sweet deal for the winning artists. “It’s a double-edged sword,” says Deborah. “It’s wonderful to have such a diversity of work, but it’s also really depressing that we can only accommodate 10 percent of the people we would have liked to.”
While the cavernous studio space and the galleries across the street will enliven this formerly silent corridor with the sounds of artists working and gallerinas hopping, they won’t necessarily turn a profit. The real revenue generator of the enterprise is a third building, on a corner of Minnesota at 1150 25th Street, that will become a 15,000-square-foot, climate-controlled storage space to serve the city’s growing ranks of fine art collectors. The Rappaports expect the proceeds from this venture to offset the low rents they’re charging in the gallery complex and artist studios. “We basically designed the art-storage building that we would want to patronize,” says Deborah. The key selling point: Whereas existing storage companies charge collectors a fee every time they retrieve a work of art from storage, the client-focused Minnesota Street Project Art Services will offer a range of flexible plans…(more)