November 13, 2017

So, You Bought a Building. Now What?

by Alan Beatts

You've probably heard the news already but, in case you missed the last couple of emails -- We managed to buy the building we were looking at on Haight Street!  This is a pretty huge accomplishment and I want to thank everyone who made it possible -- Borderlands' staff, our sponsors, all our customers who have supported us for 20 years, Dan Marshall and Lance Fulford (our realtors), and, most of all, the 49 people who lent the money that made it a reality. I'm more excited about where we're going to take Borderlands than I've been since I signed the lease for the cafe more than ten years ago.

The payment has been transferred already and escrow will close on the purchase on Tuesday, which will complete the transfer of ownership.  After that, the fun really starts.  But, it's going to be a slow start at first.  The previous owner of the building is also the owner of Recycled Records, the tenant in the retail space on the ground floor.  He's retiring, and is going to be packing up his inventory and shutting down his shop over the next couple of days.  Per the terms of the purchase contract, he has 15 days to leave the place "broom clean".  Until he's out, there isn't much work that can start (though, there are a few things I can get started on while he's still there -- basement and backyard clean up, specifically).

Once he's out, we'll be doing a bit of demolition.  The ceiling is on its last legs, and so we'll strip that down to the joists (those are the big pieces of framing that hold up the floors above).  We'll also pull up the old carpeting so that I can get a good look at the existing flooring.  Once that is done, we'll really be able to see what we've got to work with, as well as letting our structural engineer and architect take a look.  That part is very important since it will affect the next big job -- a soft-story retrofit.

Buildings like ours have mostly windows at the front and no walls that run across the place from side-to-side.  In an earthquake it's possible for the lower story of the building to slump sideways, much like a shoe-box with both ends cut off.  In construction-speak this is . . . very bad.  Especially if you happen to actually be in the building when it happens (in medical-speak that is . . . pretty awful).

Although buildings like ours are not required to be retro-fit (yet), it's not a bad idea.  Given that earthquake insurance is very, very expensive and that a soft-story collapse would most likely result in the effective destruction of the building, I'm leaning very strongly towards getting the retrofit done. However, I'll need to get a much clearer idea of what will be involved in doing the work before I decide.  Which is why getting the place cleared out is first on the to-do list.

Assuming we go forward with that job, it's going to be a time-consuming process.  We're going to need full building plans, plan-check reviews, and a bunch of permits.  And then there's the time it'll take to get the work done.  But, this is one of those jobs that you really don't want to try to do once the place is occupied, so it's a now-or-never sort of deal.  If I were going place bets on it, I'd say this job will take three months or so (especially since we're about to hit the holiday season, when everything goes more slowly).

Once that work is done, it'll be time to determine whether we're going to lease out the place for one to two years or move immediately.  We've got the option to lease it out because we've got three years left at the Valencia St. location.  It might be nicer to lease the Haight Street place, take our time planning the move (and getting some of the construction work done), and then move later.  On the other hand, I'm not getting any younger and it would be pretty neat to get into our new home sooner rather than later.

So, the current outline is retrofit completed sometime around the end of February and then rent or move.  If rent, then moving won't be until early 2019 or 2020.  If we don't rent it out, say two to three months for other construction and moving in May or June of 2018.  I'll keep you posted on all this as we go along.

Oh, but I left out the first thing that we're going to do -- show the place off.  If you'd like to come down, take a look at the place, say hi, and chat with me about layout and future plans:  I'll be at the new building on Thursday, November the 16th from four to eight pm.  I'd love to see you and show off our new House on the Borderland.  The address is 1377 Haight St. and it's just east of Masonic Avenue.  It even has a creepy basement!

All Best,

PS  If you're wondering what will happen with the Cafe when we move, the answer is, "Nothing".  It's under a separate, longer lease than the bookstore and its operations are completely independent from the store.  So, I'm going to continue to operate it on Valencia Street for the foreseeable future.

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