Internet porn company set to open SF's Mission Armory for neighborhood events 

The mark of gentrification is almost everywhere in San Francisco. But the Mission district’s long-shuttered National Guard Armory-turned-Internet-porn-empire is a special case.

Initially met with angry protest when they turned the historic castle fortress into a hardcore fetish-based adult entertainment studio in 2007, the operators of Kink.com now enjoy a more cordial relationship with the neighborhood.

The company’s owner, Peter Acworth, has donated tens of thousands of dollars to nonprofits working to help Mission youth, and now he wants the building’s 38,000-square-foot drill court to be a community center — completely separate from the rest of the business, of course.

The massive space under a semi-cylinder roof is currently used for parking, but it was historically a place of gathering for boxing matches and other events to entertain soldiers. Acworth has a building permit for code upgrades, and he said monthly community events could begin by the end of this year.

“We want to resurrect this space as a place of assembly,” said Acworth, who bought the 1912 structure for $14.5 million in 2006, when he cleaned up graffiti and broken windows that had amassed since it was abandoned in the 1970s. “Our goal is to start slowly.”

The possibilities for the drill court could include community banquets, film festivals, farmers markets and youth sports events, but Acworth said he wants to try a few things and then survey the neighborhood’s needs.

Roberto Hernandez, co-chair of the Mission’s Latino Leadership Council, said the neighborhood probably would not have trusted the plan a few years back, but Kink.com has kept promises to keep the adult business inside its thick, stone walls.

“It’s a family neighborhood,” Hernandez said. “Porno and children ... it just didn’t fit. But so far, they’ve done really well. They’ve kept their word.”

Acworth said if the community center use is approved by The City’s Planning Commission, the building will have separate entrances for the drill court and the rest of the building, where three to four shoots are done daily.

A lot of the filming happens on the Edwardian-themed fourth floor, or in the cavernous basement, where the pleasant gurgling of subterranean Mission Creek mixes with the sounds echoing out from dungeon sets. The basement also has its own metal shop to fashion props, big blue barrels of lube in the hallways, and of course, an industrial-grade laundry room.

Fiona Greene, Acworth’s assistant, arranges tours of the building that can be set up by making an email appointment. Greene said she adores the space for its history and its future potential, and that the community should not be worried about any awkward disruptions occurring during future family events.

“I guess it just seems so scary,” Greene said. “But it’s completely consensual. And it’s just another choice, another lifestyle. So what if people partake in it?”

dschreiber@sfexaminer.com

 

Touring the castle

Tours of the historic Mission district Armory can be scheduled online by visiting www.sfarmory.com/tours and reserving a date with a credit card. The one-hour jaunt through the five-story fortress, which costs $25, is geared less toward Kink.com’s pornography production and more toward the history, which includes the underground Mission Creek in the building’s basement. But don’t be surprised if you catch a glimpse of deviant sex acts.

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Dan Schreiber

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