SoMa Apartments to Cater to Tech Crowd

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July 18, 2012
SoMa Apartments to Cater to Tech Crowd

Coming soon to San Francisco's hot South of Market area: A "tech savvy" residential community, containing 463 rental apartments, a shared gourmet kitchen, work space areas, plus restaurants, cafes and perhaps even a hipster barbershop like they have in New York.

"We're creating a space that mirrors the sensibilities of the community," said Eric Tao, managing principal of San Francisco's Avant Housing, developer of the two-building project covering 587,000 square feet at Folsom and Fifth streets.

That would be the city's ever-growing tech sector, which is transforming an ever-widening circle around SoMa. Avant has a similar project, a 202-unit, Class A residential complex under construction on Mission Street, close to BART's not-so-aromatic 16th Street Mission Station.

"We're focusing on locations and types of buildings that appeal to the creative entrepreneurs and innovators," Tao said. His company, a joint venture of TMG Partners and AGI Capital, built the Soma Grand farther east on Mission Street and is looking at Dogpatch, among other evolving San Francisco neighborhoods, for future projects. "They're eclectic, almost like a tale of two cities," he said.

The Folsom and Fifth streets development broke ground in May, after a sometimes contentious four-year battle with residents of a neighborhood that was more small business and light industry than techoriented. "It was a struggle," Tao said.

The project is scheduled to be completed in early 2014. Individual units range in size from 405 square feet to 1,735 square feet; more of the latter will be in the Fifth Street building, which will also contain some different amenities.

Based on the current market, rents are expected to run approximately from $2,500 to $4,500 per month, Tao said, with 15 percent of the units set aside for affordable housing.

The project was purchased outright by Palo Alto's Essex Property Trust for an undisclosed sum, although reports I've heard put its value at $250 million.

It marks the first serious entry into San Francisco by the real estate investment trust, which has ownership interests in 158 apartment complexes on the West Coast.

"It's a great location," said John Eudy, the firm's head of development. "The Folsom Street corridor is expanding rapidly, and it's also close to the Financial District. "In San Francisco, everything fits together."

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