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SF social club The Battery is buying Oakland's historic Bellevue Club

Photo via the Bellevue Club
By Jay Barmann - Published on June 02, 2021.

The 92-year-old private social club on Lake Merritt, the Bellevue Club (525 Bellevue Ave.), is being sold to San Francisco-based club The Battery, for an East Bay expansion. 

As the SF Business Times reports, The Battery is reportedly paying between $10 million and $12 million for the historic property, and the sale is set to close on June 16. The Bellevue Club's 125 remaining members have reportedly been informed of the sale, and the club is set to cease operations as of June 16. The club's president, Carole Levenson, confirmed the sale to the Business Times, saying, "It’s time, after a year of nobody being able to be here. It’s becoming really hard for us."

Since its completion in 1928 as the Women's Athletic Club of Alameda County, the property has changed hands only once, in 2004, when the Bellevue Club became its full owner. The club was incorporated in 1926 and soon set about constructing the six-story, formal clubhouse on Lake Merritt at a cost of $500,000 in 1926 dollars. As the club's website explains, "The basic motif for the interior decoration was inspired by Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon and has achieved the atmosphere, appearance and intimacy of a large, well-ordered home rather than the formality of a typical club."

The space features several high-ceilinged gathering spaces, in addition to smaller meeting and event rooms, and there are several guest rooms on the premises as well. There is also an indoor pool, fitness center, and expansive back patio area.

The club has been struggling to grow its membership for years, and after decades as a women's-only social club, it began admitting men to its membership rolls in the 1980s. As SFGate reported in 2006, the club's members voted in a new board 15 years ago in an effort to boost membership, and has managed to stay afloat since then — partly through event rentals.

"I am happy that we seem to have found the perfect buyer," Levenson said, referring to Battery founders Michael and Xochi Birch.

The husband-and-wife tech entrepreneurs opened The Battery at 717 Battery Street as the last SF boom took off in 2013. The expensive buildout in a former ice house building includes a central glass staircase, multiple bars, a restaurant, library, fitness center, and luxury penthouse hotel rooms.

Michael Birch tells Oaklandside that he decided to pursue the purchase of the club without ever stepping foot inside — the Birches are currently living in the Virgin Islands, and Birch said he made the decision based on video and photos sent by his team.

"I love the Bellevue Club’s great history," said Birch, speaking to Oaklandside. "It felt so perfectly suited to be a club, with its grand rooms and real character." 

Birch says that the goal would be to open The Battery's Oakland location in a year's time, but that may be "naively optimistic."

The Bellevue Club building is the anchor of what's known as the Bellevue Staten Historic Preservation District, and it has also been listed in the California Register of Historical Resources.

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