Kicking Walls At Bill Graham Civic

Plans to give San Francisco’s historic Bill Graham Civic Auditorium a much-needed makeover have progressed to the Request For Proposal stage.

City officials determined there is sufficient interest from concert promoters, architects and developers to restore some of its former glory.

A group of interested parties took a walk-through of the building March 16th as part of a pre-submission meeting hosted by the city’s Convention Facilities Department and its director, John Noguchi.

Among those taking part were SMG, Another Planet Entertainment, Anschutz Entertainment Group, Live Nation – San Francisco, Global Spectrum and Nederlander, according to Noguchi.

The solicitation of rehabilitation proposals is separate from the city’s current management agreement with SMG, Noguchi said.

“The current agreement with SMG is through 2009, but they operate both the Moscone Center and Bill Graham Civic Auditorium,” Noguchi told Pollstar. “The agreement for both buildings is in place until June 30, 2009. But we’ve carved out the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium part of the contract, and that’s the part that we’re focusing on right now as part of the RFP.”

San Francisco officials last year put out feelers to assess interest, which resulted in several suggestions and potential partnerships that convinced the city to move forward with issuing the RFP.

“What we did a year ago was a request for information,” Noguchi explained. “This was our opportunity to sort of take the temperature of the interest out there. The results prompted us to go on into this more formal RFP process, which is what we’re in now.

“With the RFP currently on the streets, interested parties are currently reviewing whether they want to submit a proposal or not. We invited all the interested parties to the building so they could see it, walk through it and sort of kick the walls, as it were.”

The Bill Graham Civic hasn’t seen a significant upgrade in years, with the interior of the concert hall still sporting vintage, worn 1970s decor including carpets, curtains and fixtures. It needs a new stage, seating, improved sound system, lighting and dock facilities.

Complicating any makeover is the building’s historical status and the time-consuming regulatory approvals that come with it.

The Bill Graham Civic first opened as the San Francisco Civic Auditorium in 1915, as part of the Panama Pacific Exposition. It faces San Francisco City Hall, and is in close proximity to the Davies Symphony Hall, Asian Art Museum and War Memorial Performing Arts Ceneter.

“We’ve left it open-ended,” Noguchi said of the RFP. “We want to invite parties to come forward with whatever their ideas are with regards to bringing new life back to the building. It could be interior only; exterior is a little more challenging because of the historic nature of the building.

“We’re looking for fresh ideas that people can come forward with and their vision for the building.”

Features of the four-story building include the 7,000-capacity arena with balcony areas, fully equipped dressing rooms, and 36 rooms with 22,000 square feet of meeting space.

RFP submissions are due May 5th, and the city expects to make review panel selection recommendations June 30th.

– Deborah Speer