Real estate office proposes to take over Castro's long-vacant former Volvo Centrum shop

The Agency, a real estate brokerage and lifestyle company, is looking to take over the former Volvo Centrum shop in the Castro (3512 16th St. between Noe and Sanchez streets). The shop has sat empty for more than two years, amidst various proposals for a complete overhaul. 

After closing in the spring of 2016, Volvo Centrum was subsequently sold to Steel Arc Properties for $4.6 million, with plans to convert the space into a mix of small business offices, workshops, and one market-rate residential unit.

The initial plans were replaced in 2017 with a new design, aiming to convert the building into 12 units of housing and three residential spaces. But those plans were scrapped earlier this year, after the new owners decided not to proceed.

Inside the currently vacant 3512 16th Street. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

The Agency is managed by Rachel Swann, who is presently the interim president of the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association. The business currently operates out of a space at 3848 24th St. in Noe Valley.

Representatives from The Agency presented the project at Thursday's Castro Merchants meeting, with agent Zhane Dikes explaining the new office "will be our home base."

The Agency has signed on to a five-year lease with an option to extend another five years. The approximately 8,700-square-foot space would be converted to support about 30-50 employees on any given day.

Along with providing space for employees seven days a week, The Agency has committed to making their conference room available for community groups to hold meetings.

Asked if they would be closing their Noe Valley location, Dikes said "a decision has not been made yet."

The Agency's Rachel Swann (center). | Photo: The Agency SF/Facebook

The building itself was built in 1915 and considered a "historic resource." Because of this, any remodeling work done to the signage and window treatments would have to fit within certain criteria.

Typically, real estate agencies have a display of available properties that faces the street, but due to the historic nature of the windows, The Agency will not be able to do this.

Instead, agent Gina Blancarte explained that potential homebuyers will be invited into the office to view screens with available properties.

The Agency's Gina Blancarte (left) and Zhane Dikes (right). | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

The Agency is working in partnership with Lighthouse Public Affairs' Boe Hayward on getting the project approved.

"It is a historic building, which is probably why it has been vacant for so long," said Hayward at the Castro Merchants meeting.

Hayward explained activating this vacant space is important to the neighborhood, due to unwanted street behavior that happens outside the building. The Agency says it will install lighting and security cameras, and hopes to bring more foot traffic to the area as well. 

The Agency will also be required to apply for a conditional use authorization to change the use of the space from auto repair to retail sales and services.

Rendering of the proposed office space. | Image: The Agency

Hayward explained The Agency will be submitting its paperwork to the San Francisco Planning Department in the coming weeks. With the support of local merchants, Hayward hopes the project can receive an expedited permit process.

At the conclusion of its presentation, The Agency received a unanimous vote of support for their proposed project from the Castro Merchants.

"This is really behind the scenes. It is not on the footprint of what I consider to be the main retail corridor," said Castro Merchants president Daniel Bergerac. "That is why I think it is a good fit for the neighborhood."

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Real estate office proposes to take over castro s long vacant former volvo centrum shop