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The Trailblazers of Dogpatch

The Dogpatch District of San Francisco has undergone a true residential renaissance, but it hasn’t left its industrial past behind entirely; rather, it has vaulted off it and created a new, vibrant aesthetic. There’s a patchwork of buildings from different time periods, originally constructed for an array of functions, and the wealth of unique land and space has proven irresistible to artists, entrepreneurs, trendsetters, and trailblazers alike.


Like London’s East End or New York’s South Street Seaport District, Dogpatch is a historic waterfront enclave with scores of former dockside warehouses and factories that are currently being transformed into all kinds of ambitious, creative destinations. It’s also home to some of the oldest architecture in San Francisco: because the neighborhood was one of only a few to survive the 1906 earthquake and fire, its former mills and shipyards on Pier 70s waterfront, along with worker’s houses and warehouses from as far back as the 1860s, remain intact. Airbnb describes Dogpatch as a “can-do neighborhood,” where shared spaces and artists’ studios are colonizing the industrial landscape and foodies are migrating now that it’s come into its own as a “gastronomically enticing destination.”


One of the most exciting such transformations is taking place along Third Street, where a massive former cannery known as “American Industrial Center” has been deemed “an aircraft carrier of creativity.” Encompassing 800,000 square feet of space, the American Industrial Center was built in 1915 by the American Can Company, and it stretched all the way from 20th Street to 23rd Street. At its peak in the 1950s, the company employed thousands of people. After it closed in 1969, the facility was purchased by Angelo Markoulis, and by the mid-1980s, it had been converted into a network of 285 workspaces.


Current tenants include a diverse assortment of small business owners and startups, including Pilates studios, a digital film school, caterers, furniture designers, a winemaker, several breweries, a bookbinder, a rock-climbing wall, a company that makes messenger bags, and a cooking party organizer.


Famed chocolatier Michael Recchiuti of Confections also has his headquarters here now, as does Cristina Arantes of Kika’s Treats. In a 2011 article in The New York Times, Recchiuti noted the palpable sense of community inside the complex. His wife Jacky Recchiuti joked that denizens are apt to knock on a neighbor’s door to borrow a cup of sugar.


It seems that everywhere you look, an old factory or warehouse is being converted into something innovative. On nearby Pier 70 sits the Noonan Building, which has been standing since 1941 and is now a large studio inhabited by artists, designers, sculptors, fabricators, and the like. There’s a big emphasis on tactility here; everything is handmade. Over on 22nd Street, there’s the hip indie bag shop Rickshaw, housed in a great industrial space. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Street Project, which opened last March to much acclaim, contains 150,000 square feet of gallery space and is a haven for artists and gallerists looking for more affordable alternatives. Quite often, as the culture of a region deepens, the culinary scene blossoms correspondingly—and that’s what’s happening here, too, making Third Street’s commercial corridor a destination for culinary, as well as artistic, delights.


New Dogpatch condominium developments, like the luxury condos at 815 Tennessee, are incorporating concepts from the historic architecture, taking the best elements of Dogpatch—its idiosyncratic buildings and ample space—and lending them the polish and sophistication of contemporary design. Dogpatch was once on the radar only of those in the know in San Francisco for good reason. Its scale and character are helping it to retain an authentic and neighborly atmosphere that makes people feel truly at home.