For residents of the Bayview District, there was something satisfying about watching a building that had blighted the community for over 40 years be demolished at last. On Wednesday, at approximately 9 a.m., the 700-square-foot structure known by locals as the "Bishop Building" at 4801 3rd St. was torn down to make room for a new construction project that will serve the neighborhood as a modular restaurant.
Residents gathered around the site to watch, some with snacks and folding chairs. Everyone had their smartphone in the air, recording as the crew maneuvered an excavator, chipping away at the structure.
"Oh my goodness! I never thought I would see the day," a woman shouted out of her car window while paused at the intersection of Third Street and Oakdale Avenue.
"I don't care what they turn it into, as long as it's Black-owned,” said an elderly man who walked by holding a cane.
Among the spectators was the new project's architect, Irving Gonzales of the architecture firm G7A, who told The Standard that the demolition will be cleared within two days and what will follow is a 320-square-foot modular kitchen that will be lowered into the space formerly occupied by the Bishop Building.
Gonzales told The Standard that the modular kitchen plans still need to be approved by the state, but in the meantime, his firm will work with local artists and landscapers on revitalizing Mendell Plaza, which surrounds the site.
The Bishop Building was once the focal point of the Third Street commercial corridor and was originally owned by the late Bayview resident Curlee Bishop, who died in 2015. It has since been taken over by his grandson, Desmond Bishop, and his wife, Geeta Chanana.
Desmond Bishop is a third-generation Bayview resident and a former NFL linebacker who played for the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers. Originally, the pro football player had dreams of turning the site into a burger joint called Bishop's Burgers, which he wanted to open in 2017. Instead, he decided to scrap that plan and work on this project, allowing him to strengthen his connection to the Bayview community by creating something more sustainable and hire locals in the process.
The Bishop Building has been used for various purposes over the years, including a burger joint called Frosty City, a campaign office and a gift/flower shop. However, for the past 10 years, the property was primarily vacant. It has also witnessed several traumatic incidents, including a fire in 2008, and Muni accidents in 2009 and 2013.
Despite its proximity to youth-run businesses such as Project Wreckless and Old Skool Cafe, the Bishop Building was surrounded by empty alcohol bottles and human excrement, which was also scattered throughout Mendell Plaza. The plaza has also been in the headlines before, as it is known for criminal activity.
When asked if he was upset about the historic building being torn down, one Bayview resident who goes by "Shorty" joked, "Hell no! Only the pigeons will be upset about it, because now they won't have a place to sleep at night."
Gonzales is collaborating with Bishop and Chanana to ensure that the new concept is more appealing to community members. Gonzales and Bishop prefer to work with vendors from the Bayview, including electricians, general contractors and eventually the eatery’s restaurant owner.
"We want to create a catalyst for the community, which will improve the Mendell Plaza experience and also provide for more healthy food choices for the community," Gonzales said.
The project, which costs $350,000, is funded by the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).
"The demolition of the Bishop Building marks an incredible milestone for the community," said Crezia Tano, chief operating officer for OEWD. "It has been a partnership with Bishop Family for over 10 years to get this day, and I am proud of this project—because not only are we improving the heart of the Third Street commercial corridor, we worked to retain a Black-owned asset in Bayview."
Meaghan Mitchell can be reached at [email protected]