After nearly four years of construction and wrangling to get the project approved, the Light House—a cluster of luxury townhouses with an industrial twist, built in the shell of a historic church right across the street from Dolores Park—is almost ready to hit the market, to the tune of $6.49 million per unit.
The building, formerly the Second Church of Christ Scientist, dates to 1915 and was designed by architect William H. Crim, who gave it its signature dome and neoclassical angles. Unfortunately, the old place really went to hell (pardon the phrase) in the next 90 years, and was condemned in 2006.
There were plans to demolish it despite its historic value, but Siamak Akhavan, owner of a local seismic retrofitting company, bought it in 2011. That’s the same Siamak Akhavan who brought another famed former church on the same block, 601 Dolores.
Rechristened the Light House, the former Church of Christ Scientist at 650 Dolores is now four townhouses, each boasting more than 5,000 square feet and 30-foot ceilings. That’s the thing about building in the shell of a former church: You end up with a lot of cubic volume to fill. Hence, four stories, three bedrooms, and three-and-a-half baths in each.
Each unit is built around an enormous great room and has a second-floor loft perched 15 feet overhead. These gigantic central spaces were once part of the church nave.
Much of the material used was salvaged from the original building, including a few leftover pews. The Light House’s ultra-chic, modern style has several industrial notes—including exposed brick walls and steel girders throughout. The floors look like stone tile, but are actually concrete that’s been sanded to a glossy finish.
Putting the rough materials on display was partly an aesthetic choice—might as well show what the old place is made of—but also a way for Akhavan to please the city, who kept careful tabs on his conversion of the century-old building to make sure the architectural legacy wasn’t spoiled.
About a third of the visible girders are century-old Carnegie steel, and on each interior brick wall you can spot the trenched edges where 100-year-old bricks were dug out, tested for structural integrity, and carefully reinserted. Even the name "Light House" was chosen with preservation in mind: It could be cobbled together mostly out of letters already fixed to the building front.
There’ll be a swanky grand opening next Wednesday, and they’ll start taking offers shortly after that. Only two of the four units are actually going on the market right now; the one in the back is presently listed for rent on Craigslist (for $28,000 a month), and Akhavan himself was busy moving into the fourth unit (located secret-lair style in the dome) when we stopped in to look at the place yesterday.