Following a community meeting at the San Francisco Flower Mart in the city’s South of Market neighborhood over concerns that the market could be decommissioned, Mayor Ed Lee and the future developer expressed their commitment to seeing the flower market remain open.
However, the florists and their supporters, who gathered at the Flower Mart on Wednesday to protest the uncertain future of their leases, are still waiting for a written contract that would guarantee the future of their businesses.
Protesters expressed their fears that leases at the Flower Mart, located on Sixth Street between Brannan and Bryant, would not be renewed once they expired in December. Many feared that they could be moved out to make room for tech companies.
Kilroy Realty Corporation’s senior vice president of development and land planning Mike Grisso said today that once Kilroy officially acquires the site from the San Francisco Flower Growers Association, they plan to “create a modern facility to be enjoyed by growers, tenants, buyers, and visitors for many decades to come.”
He said the realty company “remains committed to working with adjacent owners, existing tenants, and the city to preserve the Flower Mart at its current location.”
Grisso said that, due to Securities and Exchange Commission regulations, Kilroy can’t comment on specifics of the transaction until it’s fully completed.
Flower Mart employees remain uncertain that the modernization efforts will be in their favor, as the site is seen by many of the patrons and vendors, as a historical landmark.
Patrick McCann, the owner of Greenworks, a business located inside the Flower Mart, said that over 100 flower vendors operate out of the market today, many since the market opened in 1956.
According to 92-year-old florist Albert Nalbandian, his father started shopping at the Flower Mart in 1915, when it was just a group of growers selling their flowers to florists downtown at Lotta’s Fountain, at the intersection of Geary and Market streets.
Nalbandian said every morning he would go with his father to Lotta’s market to buy flowers for the day.
A larger market was created in 1924 at Fifth and Howard streets and then the need for more space led to the construction of the Flower Mart at its current location, according to the Flower Mart’s website.
Today, Nalbandian owns the I. Magnin Flower Stand, which is run from the corner of Stockton and Geary streets.
“We’ve spent as much time in the market here as we have in our own homes,” Nalbandian said today.
Both Mayor Ed Lee and former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos expressed their support for the Flower Mart this week.
Lee said Thursday that developers have long been competing for the ability to develop the site, but that all developers interested in the property agreed to retain the Flower Mart.
“The Flower Mart is going to be here to stay,” Lee said.
Agnos said not only is the market a place of historical importance, but it symbolizes all the hard-working non-tech workers that made this city what it is today.
He expressed concerns that developers are trying citywide to kick out “jobs that diversify our economy and don’t make us a one industry city, dependent only on high-tech.”
He urged the future owner of the land to understand that the flower market turns a profit, and while it’s not a fast-growing tech startup, it is still worth a lot to the people of the city.
Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News