Work to repair a building in the Lower Haight is under way after a four-alarm fire that left it in ruins five months ago, and residents couldn’t be happier.
The three-story building at Haight and Fillmore streets — which housed a Walgreens, Three Twins Ice Cream, Estella’s Sandwiches and 20 apartments — was scorched Sept. 26. The cause of the blaze remains under investigation, said Fire Department Lt. Mindy Talmadge, but it resulted in $1.8 million in property damage. At least 30 residents were displaced.
Structural work to make the building safer has been ongoing since the fire, architect Michael Harris said, but more dramatic changes are in store.
The building, Harris said, will return to its pre-fire appearance, including concrete siding, and new sprinklers and a rear staircase are planned.
“It was so badly damaged that we had to remove the walls for safety on the top floor,” Harris said. “The roof is gone and we’re still cleaning up debris. The first stage, though, is seismic upgrades, and we are getting permits for that now.”
Harris said the building was first constructed in 1919, and his team wants to bring back the look of that era while also adding modern touches.
Harris said if Walgreens returns, the business is requesting more space, which would be done by reconfiguring the layout instead of adding square footage. Both Three Twins and Estella’s also have expressed interest in returning. The apartments will also be updated.
Thea Selby, president of the Lower Haight Merchants and Neighborhood Association, said the neighborhood is excited about the progress and the plans.
“We’re thrilled,” Selby said. “We feel that Haight and Fillmore is in the center of our neighborhood, and this is a great opportunity for it.”
Selby said developers have met with residents to inform them of plans. She said concerns about proposed balconies for the apartments and siding for the building were addressed during meetings.
“We’re so glad it’s going to return to what it was like before,” Selby said, “and not have that stucco siding.”
Once permits are obtained, construction is expected to take between 12 and 14 months, Harris said.