San Francisco

24 years after devastating fire, Saint Paulus Lutheran Church to return to Gough & Eddy

Nearly 25 years after the historic Saint Paulus Lutheran Church burned to the ground, it's finally returning to the corner of Eddy and Gough streets, as part of a new development. 

Pastor Daniel Solberg, who currently leads the church out of a rental storefront on Polk Street, recently signed a contract with San Francisco-based developer Maracor to redevelop the long-vacant site. 

Maracor has purchased the land on which the church once stood for a residential development, with a promise to provide the church with its own deeded 10,000 -12,000 square foot commercial condominium on the ground floor.

It’s a venture intended to meet the needs of both the Saint Paulus congregation and the city of San Francisco, pastor Daniel Solberg said.

95 residential condominiums, 11 of them below-market-rate, will be constructed on the site as well. 

The cathedral being destroyed by fire. | Image: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

Constructed in 1892, the Gothic cathedral that formerly dominated the corner was destroyed in a 1995 fire. The five-alarm blaze displaced 100 people, many of whom resided in two apartment buildings and a women's shelter that were located on-site. 

Since then, Solberg told us, there have been several efforts to redevelop the site, including never-completed projects that would have combined a space for Saint Paulus with an Alzheimer's care center and workforce housing. But federal funding for the Alzheimer's project never came through, and the financial crisis bankrupted the workforce project's developer. 

Saint Paulus' congregation has moved from space to space for the past 24 years, awaiting a permanent home. After operating for more than a decade out of an old elementary school building across the street from its former site, the church moved to the Fillmore in 2007, and now operates at 1541 Polk St. 

As a 'church without walls,' the 152-year-old congregation has devoted itself to street ministry among the homeless and other marginalized populations. It intends to conduct similar work once it moves into its new building in mid-2020, Solberg said. 

Rendering of the proposed development at 950 Gough St. | Image: Handel Architects

In addition to the 95 residential units and a 10,000-square-foot sanctuary, community and administrative space for Saint Paulas, the new building will also have a courtyard and roof deck overlooking Jefferson Square Park, Solberg said.

A two-level, below-ground garage will offer 61 vehicle spaces and 109 bicycle spaces, said Brad Dickason, principle with Maracor.

An official groundbreaking ceremony for the new sanctuary, "Up From the Ashes We Rise," is planned for this Sunday, January 27 at 2 p.m. Mayor London Breed is among the dignitaries expected to attend, Solberg said.

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