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Real estate agency gets go-ahead to take over Castro's former Volvo Centrum building

Real estate agency gets go-ahead to take over Castro's former Volvo Centrum building
The Agency's new office at 3512 16th St. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline
By Steven Bracco - Published on April 08, 2019.

A real estate brokerage firm is officially on the way to the Castro, after earning unanimous approval from the San Francisco Planning Commission at last week's meeting.

At the same meeting, the commission also approved a patio expansion for another Castro business, membership-based social club The Academy (2166 Market St.)

With approvals in hand, real estate firm The Agency, which currently operates out of Noe Valley, is officially taking over the long-vacant former Volvo Centrum repair shop at 3512 16th St., changing the space's use from an automotive repair shop to a retail professional service. (A previous proposal to convert the building into 12 units of housing and three commercial spaces was scrapped last February.)

Meanwhile, The Academy has officially converted the former Klotz Watches & Clocks space, which closed in 2015, from a retail to a general entertainment use, opening up the ability to use its backyard patio for members. 

The Academy will now offer patio access to members. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

The Agency's new location will accommodate between 75-100 employees, according to managing partner Rachel Swann, who's also the president of the Noe Valley Merchants Association.

"I'm looking forward to have a big space where we can all be together," Swann told Hoodline. "We're lucky that things moved quickly, and I'm happy with the timeline."

Swann's aim is to open The Agency by July. Much of the construction work on the former Volvo Centrum space has already been completed by the landlord; Swann also plans on painting the exterior and adding some additional lighting.

The Agency's Rachel Swann speaks at the Planning Commission meeting. | IMAGE: SFGOVTV

"We're already well connected to the community, and we're excited to be a part of the neighborhood," said Swann, who plans to open The Agency's conference rooms to community groups, including Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops.

The Agency's move to the Castro was supported by all the major neighborhood groups: including Castro Merchants, Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District (Castro CBD), Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Group (DTNA) and the Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association. 

Those groups also gave their stamp of approval to The Academy, which was first opened in 2017 by business partners Nate Bourg and Paul Miller. It now boasts 300 members, offering programming like art shows, wine tasting, book clubs, discussion groups, game nights and barber services.

The Academy's Paul Miller and Nate Bourg at the Planning Commission meeting. | Image: SFGovtv

Planning Commissioners approved the Academy's outdoor terrace, under the condition that it closes by 10 p.m. daily and plays no amplified music. Miller and Bourg said the space would be primarily used for conversation, reading and co-working. 

Commissioners expressed concern that excess noise would have an effect on  the neighboring Twin Peaks Hotel, which overlooks the patio. 

A community liaison will also be available for residents' concerns, and six months from now, The Academy will be required to report back to the Planning Commission with any feedback about noise on the patio. 

The Academy's backyard terrace. | Photo: The Academy

"We are extremely pleased with the unanimous vote of approval we received from the Planning Commission yesterday, and would like to thank Bridget Hicks and the Planning Department for their help in guiding us through this complex process over the past eight months," Bourg told Hoodline in a statement.

"Moving forward, we are beyond excited to continue growing The Academy, and welcoming to our club all those who share a common interest in engaging in the community and valuing meaningful in-person connections."