Armory receives permit to hold community events 

A 40,000-square-foot space in the Armory building, which also houses the studios, will host arts events starting next month. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • A 40,000-square-foot space in the Armory building, which also houses the studios, will host arts events starting next month.

The historic Armory building at 14th and Mission streets will soon be home to a community center where trade shows, sporting events and theater can be held.

Andrew Harvill, director of the community center, said the space will serve as a hub for the surrounding neighborhood.

“We’re excited about this project,” Harvill told the Entertainment Commission on Tuesday. “This used to be a premier venue in The City in the ’20s and ’40s, and then it sat empty for the past 40 years. We’re trying to resurrect that.”

The castlelike structure in the Mission district once housed the National Guard Armory. A 40,000-square-foot space on the eastern side of the building, known as the drill court, will house the center. Exposed concrete, concrete slabs and arched steel beams are still visible.

The building was purchased in 2007 by Peter Acworth, founder of, a porn website that focuses on bondage and fetishes. Since the building was purchased, Acworth has said there would be a community center in the building.

“We couldn’t use the other businesses in this vast space; it was really just used as a parking lot,” he said. “We decided this would make a great place for a public, accessible community space.”

In spite of the close proximity to studios, Acworth said the two ventures will be completely separate, including separate entrances and an external concrete wall.

On Tuesday, the community center operators were granted an entertainment permit, which enables organizers to host arts events such as theater, book fairs and some sporting events.

Acworth and Harvill said the community center already has its first event scheduled for next month, when the American Conservatory Theater brings “Black Watch,” a war-inspired production, to the Armory from May 9 through June 9.

Additional events are expected to be confirmed once construction — including replacing all windows, installing a hardwood floor and adding new paint — in the drill court is completed.

Acworth said in time the center will consider applying for a change-of-use permit that would allow them to host all kinds of events, not just arts.

“Right now we’re permitted to do arts and theater,” Acworth said. “At some point we’ll have to bite the bullet to get formal change of use.”

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