Flax Moving to Make Room for Condos

May 09 at 8am

As both Hoodline (who broke the story) and SFGate are reporting, San Francisco's enormous art and design supply haven, Flax, is getting the boot to make room for .... you guessed it, more condos. The 20,000 sq. ft. store has brought artists and crafty types much happiness from its outpost at Market and Valencia for nearly four decades (37 years, to be exact) and now, the shop will be replaced by a nine-story, 160 unit condo building. We're already mourning the loss of our inspiring neighbor – I mean, how many personal, work-related, and ridiculously fun Bold Italic fantasies have come to life thanks to the 33,000 products in that store? What will we do without such easy access to their great paper and frame and pen and notebook and paint and everything selection? I guess adapt – much like the owner is adapting. 

SFGate reports that the store was given a long lead time to find a new home, and that while they may have to downsize, owner Howard Flax is taking the relocation news in stride. 

"Market Street has served us well since 1977 - but there is nothing magical about Market Street," said Flax, whose 76-year-old family business previously operated various art stores downtown. "John F. Kennedy said change is the law of life. I am a big advocate of change. It's an opportunity to turn an entity into something different and something better."

It's becoming a common theme in San Francisco now, trading retail space for housing, especially along Market Street, where the skyline is rapidly transforming into condo row. SFGate ran down the list of housing developments along Market between downtown and the Castro, which, when complete, will create 371 new living spaces. But of course the debate is – at what cost? Most of these developers are choosing to pay a fee to the city rather than make 15 percent of their units affordable, and non-profit developers can't pay the prices Market St. is currently fetching. 

San Francisco is in a serious housing squeeze right, and the solution of building more places to live makes a lot of sense. I mentioned this NY Times Magazine piece on denser housing earlier in the week, an article that puts forth the idea that the only real solution to expensive rent is increased housing. And frankly, it makes sense to me to keep the condos in neighborhoods that are already dense, like SOMA and along parts of Market. But it also means that we're reshuffling the landscape, and under the threat of losing retail outlets we love and support.

At least with Flax, it means we're not saying goodbye – they're just moving somewhere else. Their reasons for going, though, follow a common narrative that extends beyond retail landlords to residential situations many of my friends in San Francisco are facing now too. Money trumps stability. 

Photo from Flax art & design

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