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Entire San Francisco block in North Beach sold for $26 million

A street view of the former Safeway store in North Beach, San Francisco.
The shopping plaza at 350 Bay St. where Safeway was located was just purchased by a San Jose-based investor for $26 million.

A shopping center in North Beach that Supervisor Aaron Peskin once called a “weird fit” for the neighborhood has landed a new buyer who couldn’t disagree more. 

If anything, what the area needs in order to reactivate it is another grocery store, says Anton Qiu, whose firm, San Jose-based Anchor Pacific Capital, swooped in to acquire the NorthPoint Shopping Centre and the adjacent NorthPoint Vistas apartments for $25.76 million. 

The deal closed Friday, according to public records. Qiu confirmed that it was an all-cash deal involving a partnership between Anchor Pacific and an unnamed, high net worth family office. 

According to him, the buying party had inquired about the properties, located at 350 Bay St. and 2351 Powell St., in the spring when the Safeway closed its doors. Qiu said that his party initially lost out on two rounds of bids before the seller, Northpoint Investors, came back to his firm in September after the other deals fell through. 

The Office of the Assessor-Recorder’s latest assessment of the property value of the commercial lot and apartment building is roughly $18 million combined. Qiu said had the shopping center been fully leased, that he would have valued it at around $35 million. 

“Goal No. 1 is to land a supermarket,” Qiu told The Standard. “We have friends in the area, plus the residents of the (NorthPoint Vistas) apartments, who all say that they want to have one there again.” 

A group of people crossing the street at Columbus Avenue in North Beach, San Francisco.
A group of people cross Columbus Avenue in North Beach in July. | Source: Joel Umanzor/The Standard

A Grocery Outlet?

Since news of the sale has come out, Qiu said he now has six potential candidates reach out to him to fill the spot of the former Safeway. One of those interested parties is Grocery Outlet, which has a meeting with the new property owners next month, Bill Coyle, vice president of the company’s Northern California real estate division, confirmed with The Standard. 

The 87,000-square-foot shopping center once included retail tenants like Walgreens, RadioShack and H&R Block, but today, it is about 90% vacant. Qiu said those recent trends are blemishes rather than long-lasting stains. 

To him, memories of the 350-stall parking garage being full or the 24-hour Safeway being the only thing open late at night before the pandemic are more accurate representations of the area. The shopping center just needs a fresh pair of hands to move it forward, Qiu said. 

The 72-unit Vistas apartment building will remain largely unchanged outside of “small upgrades,” he added. According to online listings, the current asking rent for available units ranges from $2,700 to $3,400 a month. 

The previous property management firm, Wilsey Bennett, had told The San Francisco Chronicle after the Safeway closure, “It’s probably time for the property to be redeveloped.”

Aaron Peskin speaks to a crowd outside City Hall.
District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin once called the NorthPoint Centre a "weird fit" in the North Beach neighborhood. | Source: Juliana Yamada for The Standard

When reached for comment after the sale, Peskin, who represents the neighborhood, said while he would have welcomed a redevelopment of the shopping center in the past, that he is equally encouraged by Qiu wanting to bring back another grocery store. He said he also plans to meet with the new owners next month to discuss the future of the property. 

North Beach Has High Retail Vacancy Rate

Just around the corner from NorthPoint Centre, a retail complex double the size, known as Anchorage Square—which has also been struggling with vacancies after the pandemic—was sold to Los Angeles-based firm BH Properties for approximately $65 million in July, according to public records. 

The citywide retail vacancy rate currently hovers around 6.5%, according to real estate firm Avison Young, more than double the rate in the fourth quarter of 2019. 

That number is even more pronounced in North Beach, which saw vacancy rates soar past 20% even before the pandemic. According to Avison Young, that number is now 13.5% with average rents at around $65 per square foot.

“The entire Fisherman’s Wharf—from Bay Street to Jefferson Street—has boundless opportunity,” Peskin said. “There’s not much of historic merit, not a lot of residential and mostly junky buildings.”