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Fisherman's Wharf: Academy of Art University Thinks Outside the Box and Into the Can

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The awkwardly-named and ever-expanding Academy of Art University bought The Cannery building last month, presumably from the bank that foreclosed on owner Vornado Trust's mortgage last year. The AAU makes the Planning Commission and the Department of Buildings very nervous, the Wall Street Journal tells us, and while they're working towards compliance in their many buildings and seem to have stopped putting in illegal bathrooms or converting apartment houses in dormitories, the Cannery purchase is outside the geographic area they identified in their recent master plan. On the other hand, the once award-winning complex has been very sad for the past few years, and if the AAU is going to inject some life- other than tourists- into a neighborhood no San Franciscan will admit to going to, how bad can it be? Maybe they can be induced (coaxed?) to take over Ghirardelli Square and a hotel or three. Click on the gallery for more images.

Built immediately after the 1906 earthquake it was once the largest fruit and vegetable cannery in the world, processing peaches and apricots from down the Peninsula from places like Cupertino, now occupied by tech firms, and from farms in Emeryville, now occupied by the likes of Pixar and IKEA. Fast-forward through a depression, a war, and the popularity of frozen vegetables to the 1960's when "adaptive reuse" was suddenly the flavor of the decade. Ghirardelli Square had just been reborn from unused produce warehouses- buildings left over from San Francisco's days as a working waterfront. The Cannery was re-scripted by Joseph Esherick and landscape architect Thomas Church and became a reasonably successful entity until damaged by fire in 2002. Vornado purchased it in 2007 for a whopping $33,500,000. Oops.
· Lender Closes on Retail Landmark The Cannery [SF Gate]
· School's Expansion Riles San Francisco? [WSJ]
The Cannery [San Francisco History]
· Academy of Art University Coverage [Curbed SF Archives]