San Francisco's Hibernia Bank gets a new lease on life

- A long-neglected building in San Francisco is getting a new lease on life, after sitting vacant for years.

The 123 year-old Hibernia Bank building at Jones and McAllister Streets is undergoing a major renovation project and is getting ready to welcome a new tenant.

Monday, KTVU got an exclusive tour of the building to see the upgrades.

The bank was built in 1892, designed by famed architect Albert Pissis, one of San Francisco’s earliest proponents of the Beaux-Arts style.

The building survived the 1906 earthquake, but its interior was destroyed in the fire.

Two years later the bank reopened, becoming an architectural treasure that defined the neighborhood until 1985.

Now the neighborhood is known as a haven for drug dealing and prostitution, but the owners hope to redefine the heart of the Tenderloin by opening this 19th century landmark.

“There’s not too many buildings in San Francisco that have the same gravitas as this,” said Seamus Naughten, managing director at the Dolmen Property Group.

The San Francisco developer bought the spacious, 40,000 square foot structure in 2008, for a reported $3.9 million.

Since then, crews have been working to meet modern standards while preserving the building’s original characteristics.

“The main thing we did with the building was to upgrade the mechanical, electrical and plumbing,” Naughten said.

Automated shutters now adorn the large windows but it is the historic interior that sets the building apart.

During the tour, Naughten, walked along the marble floors of what was the main banking hall, past the u-shaped teller counter, before staring up at the large tiffany-style stained glass skylights. It's like a step back in time.

The mahogany and walnut paneled executive offices look as they did a hundred years ago; plush red carpet and chandeliers illuminating the rooms.

The grandeur of the main level is in stark contrast to the industrial feel of the lower level with its bright white walls, exposed ceiling and brick.

Naughten says it is the combination of the old and the new that creates endless possibilities.

“The building itself is very flexible, in its zoning and in its use.  Due to the nature of the space, it can be office, entertainment or retail,” he said.  

The building was named a city landmark in 1981 and is now an important part of the city’s plans to redevelop the mid-Market area.

“It’s really a one of a kind property,” said John Jensen, Colliers International broker.

Jensen believes one of the city’s oldest buildings just might be the key to rejuvenating the neighborhood.

“The mid-Market area has been revitalizing for several years, now we’re the next big thing,” Jensen said.

Several potential tenants have already viewed the space including those interested in possibly turning it into a nightclub.

And with Twitter and Zendesk nearby, the Hibernia is also appealing to tech companies, but so far, nothing official.

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