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Making the Ive Hive: Jony Ive’s bold plans to reshape a small slice of San Francisco

Entities tied to the legendary Apple designer have spent tens of millions buying up nearly a city block in Jackson Square.

A man in a suit stands before a stylized, collage-like backdrop with architectural plans and city buildings.
Entities tied to Jony Ive have spent the last four years accumulating the better part of a block in Jackson Square. | Source: Illustration by Jesse Rogala/The Standard; photo by David M. Benett/Getty Images

You can call legendary iPhone designer Sir Jony Ive something of a Jackson Square superfan—so much so that the famously private figure once penned an ode to the roughly six-block micro-neighborhood in the Financial Times.

Now appreciation has morphed into a mini-empire, as entities tied to Ive have spent the last four years accumulating the better part of a block in the neighborhood, bordered by Columbus and Pacific avenues and Jackson and Montgomery streets. 

Consider it the Ive Hive, if you will. 

Two men holding up colorful smartphones in a brightly lit, modern space.
Entities tied to longtime Apple design guru Jony Ive, seen here with Apple CEO Tim Cook, have been assembling land across one block in Jackson Square for the past four years. | Source: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Englishman—whose personal net worth is a closely held secret but whose departure from Apple in 2019 resulted in a $9 billion stock loss for the company—kicked off his Jackson Square buying spree in 2020 by buying 809 Montgomery for $8.5 million.

Ive followed that purchase by scooping up 112 Columbus and 831 Montgomery in 2021 and 807 Montgomery and portions of 845 Montgomery in 2023. The price for each of those four properties, respectively: $17 million, $10 million, $38 million and $4.1 million.

After leaving Apple five years ago, Ive co-founded his own “creative collective” firm called LoveFrom, which is now headquartered in two of those buildings—809 and 831 Montgomery St. Much of the development on the block is being done under the LoveFrom banner. 

Among neighbors in surrounding buildings, rumors are flying around about what exactly Ive plans to do with the block. Is he trying to build a semi-public park for his well-heeled neighbors? A robotics lab? Perhaps a mini campus for Jackson Square’s emergent creative class, or a secret headquarters for a new AI device startup.

Ive’s most recent acquisition took place in February when he purchased the Little Fox Theatre at 535 Pacific Ave. from local political and real estate magnate Clint Reilly. The former movie palace is now a relatively modest four-story office building with a yellowed brick facade that wouldn’t feel out of place in The Wizard of Oz.

A person walks by the entrance of the "Little Fox Theatre Building" with arched doorways.
In February, an entity tied to Ive purchased the Little Fox Theatre at 535 Pacific Ave. at a price way over the property's fair market value. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard
A cityscape with a mix of old brick buildings and modern skyscrapers under a clear sky.
The block bordered by Columbus and Pacific avenues and Jackson and Montgomery streets sits in the shadow of the Transamerica Pyramid. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

Over the years, multiple interested parties have kicked the tires on acquiring the property, including, coincidentally, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, daughter of the famed Apple founder Steve Jobs. Ive ended up plunking down $60 million for the property, equivalent to just under $1,700 per square foot. 

That price, according to real estate sources, is around four times the fair market value for the property. Multiple tenants in the building confirmed that they are leaving to make way for new occupants. 

“You don’t do that if the math is based on returns,” said Jesse Feldman, a partner at real estate developer Brick & Timber Collective, which sold 831 Montgomery St. to Ive in 2021. “It’s got to be part of a master plan.” 

Ive and LoveFrom did not respond to requests for comment. 

The accumulation of property gives Ive control of a central courtyard on the block that was once a parking lot. Plans approved by the city’s Planning Commission in September give an inkling of what the team has in store. 

Inside a modern room with large glass windows overlooking a courtyard with trees and a paved area.
A rendering of the proposed project by Jony Ive's LoveFrom design studio includes new landscaping and a pavilion structure that can be used for meetings, events and demonstrations. | Source: Courtesy SF Planning Commission
Aerial view of urban blocks with buildings, trees, and streets.
An aerial rendering of the proposed project by Jony Ive's LoveFrom design studio shows the plans to build out the central courtyard of the block. | Source: Courtesy SF Planning Commission

In addition to building new staircases, outdoor access points and upgrades to the gates that control access into the courtyard, the development team is landscaping the area into a well-manicured park and constructing a central “pavilion” building with a basement that can function as a private event space.

Renderings submitted to the city show a sleek structure clad in brick and glass. A LoveFrom representative told the Planning Commission the space would also be used to design and showcase large prototypes and models designed by LoveFrom for clients. 

On a recent weekday afternoon, construction work in the courtyard could be spotted from the fifth-floor roof deck of co-working space Canopy, the sound of trucks shifting detritus meeting the muted click-clack of laptop keys and a murmured panel on the future of sustainable communities. 

An aerial view of a construction site with materials, machinery, and a parked car, flanked by brick buildings.
Construction crews work on building an interior courtyard and pavilion in the Jackson Square block that's been taken over by Jony Ive's LoveFrom design studio. | Source: Kevin Truong/The Standard

The largest remaining building that abuts that central courtyard space is known as the Hippodrome Building at 555 Pacific Ave. Michael Gschwend, a Kidder Mathews broker for the property, hasn’t received any official offer to purchase it, but wouldn't be surprised if it was on the radar.

“That building is a logical one for the Ive Hive to take a look at next, just given the location and the fact that it backs up to the courtyard,” Gschwend said. “They’re trying to create an urban campus and almost a pavilion, amphitheater, park-like setting in that courtyard.”

Building support

Typically, a super-rich person spending tens of millions to control a major section of a tony neighborhood in San Francisco would raise some eyebrows, but stakeholders have curiously expressed nothing but love for whatever Ive has in store for Jackson Square.

“When you see people assembling large parcels of property in Jackson Square, you might think they’re planning on ripping out all the Gold Rush-era buildings and putting something else in,” said District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin. He had his suspicions, but after having a meal with Ive at power-lunch mainstay Cotogna, he came away impressed with Ive’s deep knowledge of the neighborhood and its history. 

“He loves and cares about Jackson Square,” Peskin said. “There are people who are responsible investors and those who are not. He’s definitely one of the responsible ones.”

A brick building with "JACKSON SQUARE LAW OFFICES" on the facade, featuring two windows and lens flare from the sun.
Ive's shopping spree kicked off in 2020 when the Englishman bought 809 Montgomery for $8.5 million. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard
Two people walk past a dark building entrance with barred doors.
Jony Ive's LoveFrom is merging two adjacent buildings at 809 and 831 Montgomery St. for its headquarters and design studio space. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

Another thing Peskin came away with was a gift sent to his office soon after the meeting: a $98 box of L.A. Burdick Chocolates.

“I’m not even a dessert person, but I loved those chocolates,” Peskin said with a chuckle, noting that he reported the gift on his public disclosures

Love or self-interest?

Land-owning neighbors undoubtedly like the fact that Ive appears to be boosting their property values by sinking millions in investment into the neighborhood. But there’s also a feeling that Ive has even bigger ambitions for Jackson Square.

“This is like Messi coming to America to play for the MLS,” Paul McAleese, owner of Kells Irish Restaurant and Bar on the block, said during a Planning Commission meeting. 

People cross a city street with cars and buildings in the background.
Buzzy restaurants and quirky retail stores have made Jackson Square a popular downtown destination for locals and tourists alike. | Source: Benjamin Fanjoy for The Standard

George Revel owns Lost Coast Outfitters on Jackson Street, which he proudly notes is the only fly-fishing shop in San Francisco. Inside the storefront, where a well-fed labrador named Diesel napped near the entrance, hundreds of colorful fly lures are presented in all shapes and sizes. 

Ive purchased the shop's building in 2021, and Revel said the new landlord quickly overcame his initial skepticism. “I’m seeing a tremendous amount of value being put into my weird fishing business in San Francisco,” Revel said.

Among the neighborhood’s boosters, there’s a distinct feeling that Jackson Square, which has a long legacy stretching back to its time as a red-light district called the Barbary Coast, is in the midst of a new era defined in contrast to the largely vacant downtown.

Instead of skyscrapers, there are historic brick-and-timber buildings. Instead of big box stores, there are quirky boutiques. And, crucially, there’s plenty of parking. 

A man and woman in formal wear pose at a WSJ event, the woman slightly blurred.
Laurene Powell Jobs and Jony Ive are reportedly working on an AI device startup alongside OpenAI CEO Sam Altman. | Source: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for the Wall Street Journal

Prominent new entrants in the neighborhood in recent years include Bain Capital, which is renovating an entire building at 450 Pacific Ave., and Steve Jobs' widow, Laurene Powell Jobs. Her nonprofit, the Emerson Collective, is reportedly working on an AI-powered device startup with Ive, Sam Altman and Josh Kushner-founded Thrive Capital. 

Two real estate sources said a prominent tech investor with close ties to Ive is poised to buy the former firehouse at 451 Pacific Ave. The property is currently owned by Michael and Xochi Birch, entrepreneurs who founded the Battery, the exclusive members club that has developed into a posh neighborhood anchor. 

Scott Richards opened his contemporary art gallery on the corner of Pacific Avenue and Montgomery Street in November after more than 20 years in Union Square. He said he welcomes the attention and investment the Ive Hive has lavished on Jackson Square, even if he ends up getting priced out a few years down the road. 

“Whenever you see somebody’s spending way, way more than the current value on real estate, that’s creating an epicenter,” Richards said. “These guys aren’t stupid. Whatever he’s doing, he’s here for the long haul.”

Kevin Truong can be reached at