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Troubled Old Mint nets $1M, needs $99M more

Sadly, the mint can’t just print more

Governor Jerry Brown and two San Francisco lawmakers in Sacramento gave the city a little something extra to be thankful for this week by delivering a $1 million grant to the venerable but troubled Old Mint building on Fifth Street.

Of course, Mayor Ed Lee’s office estimates that rehabbing the classic building will probably require at least $100 million in all.

A penny on the dollar doesn’t sound like much, but the first million is just to finance the feasibility study to figure out, among other things, what the actual overall necessary budget will be.

Still, this is pretty big news for Mint watchers, as it’s the first really tangible action taken after more than a decade of good intentions but little else.

Previously, the San Francisco Museum & Historical Society shepherded the Mint’s rehab efforts for nine solid years. While they meant well, they never executed any meaningful action.

The city made the California Historical Society the building’s stewards earlier this year, with an events company playing host there until truly long-term plans get moving.

Designed by Alfred B. Mullet, the Mint was one of San Francisco’s earliest landmarks in 1874. Closed to the public in 1994, the years of neglect have not been kind to its storied interiors.

The city bought the building in 2003 as a safeguard, but figuring out what to do with the granite palace turned out to be trickier than just holding the deed.