Mayor London Breed and Community Organizations Announce Purchase of Historic Property to Save and Preserve Centro Social Obrero
Transaction will keep 50-year-old organization, Mission Language and Vocational School, in its Mission District home and help expand community programming
San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed and nonprofit leaders today announced that the 701 Alabama Consortium, a real estate holding entity comprised of Jamestown Community Center, the Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), and Mission Neighborhood Centers, Inc. (MNC), together with Mission Language and Vocational School (MLVS), have finalized the purchase of a portion of the historic Centro Social Obrero building in the Mission, restoring the full building to nonprofit ownership. The Centro Social Obrero is located at 2929 19th Street and has been home to MLVS for over 40 years. The purchase of the 12,902 square foot property within the building will protect and expand culturally relevant services to low-income Latino and immigrant residents, including career counseling, language and vocational training, and job placements.
“Thanks to the hard work and organization of long-time nonprofit organizations in the Mission and our Nonprofit Sustainability Initiative, the Centro Social Obrero will be able to continue providing a place for people to thrive and grow,” said Mayor Breed. “The acquisition of this property shows us what’s possible when we all work together. Our city wouldn’t be the same without community resources like the Mission Language and Vocational School, and now these organizations will be able to offer even more services and resources for San Franciscans.”
The building serves as a multi-tenant nonprofit center that includes the Jamestown Community Center, Five Keys Charter School, the Roadmap to Peace Initiative and the Bay Area Community Resource Access Center, in addition to MLVS’ workforce and community development services. The purchase of the property restores the full space to not-for-profit ownership and includes protections to ensure the property will remain community-focused, prioritizing low and moderate-income residents and expanding the potential for collaboration among tenants.
“Mission Language and Vocational School and Centro Social Obrero provide invaluable services to residents in the Mission and beyond,” said Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco). “The effort to preserve this space has been complex, but today’s announcement ensures our communities will be able to benefit from these incredible organizations for years to come.”
“Every time one of our cherished non-profit agencies shutters, it has a completely destabilizing impact on our neighborhood and puts families at greater risk of displacement,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen who represents the Mission District. “By taking complete ownership of this building, the non-profit organizations that make up the 701 Alabama Consortium are sending a clear message that they are not going anywhere, and will continue investing in the futures of our most vulnerable families in the Mission and throughout the City.”
The collaborative effort to save the historic MLVS building, also known as the Centro Social Obrero, began in 2017. The Jamestown Community Center, Mission Economic Development Agency and Mission Neighborhood Centers created the 701 Alabama Consortium LLC in 2019 to help raise the capital necessary to save the historic institution from financial challenges and closure.
The Mayor’s Nonprofit Sustainability Initiative (NSI) provided early funding and technical assistance for the acquisition. NSI is an ongoing program that deploys financial assistance, professional services, assessment tools and other resources to maintain and expand services for residents by stabilizing nonprofits and overcome barriers to growth, such as the high cost of real estate. The Office of Economic and Workforce Development administers the NSI in partnership with the San Francisco Arts Commission and the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development. Community Vision, a nonprofit intermediary, oversees the NSI’s real estate assistance and strategic grant making through a competitive process.
In March, the 701 Alabama Consortium received a $1 million grant from the NSI, administered by Community Vision. Leveraging those funds, the Consortium was then able to obtain a loan from the Bank of San Francisco to negotiate the successful purchase and sale agreement of the space. The total purchase price for the property was $4.75 million.
“When community comes together we accomplish great things. This last year and a half, the community worked hard to save this space and programs and it became very personal to me. While there were very challenging moments, they were also very rewarding,” said Tracy Brown Gallardo, Board Chair of the Mission Language and Vocational School. “Mission Language Vocational School has been critical to serving multiple generations of families that immigrated to ensure their children had access to education and opportunity. Over 25,000 students have gone through our programs who are contributing to our economy including myself, my daughter, and my extended family members. MLVS is one of many anchors in this community. Thanks to our city leaders Mayor London Breed, Assemblyman David Chiu, Supervisor Hillary Ronen and to our community partners Jamestown, MEDA and MNC and the community call to action, the ‘Mission’s City Hall’ will stand for many years to come.”
“Jamestown is thrilled to be a part of this story of neighborhood resilience and strength. Being a part-owner of this building strengthens our organization and secures access to needed services for future generations of Latino youth and families. Reclaiming this space for our Latino education and arts programming supports our community’s identity and sense of place. We are especially grateful to Mayor Breed and her staff for her support in this endeavor,” said Jamestown Executive Director Myrna Melgar.
“It is imperative that community-development work be seen through the lens that Mission-based family-serving businesses and organizations want to have long-term, stable spaces to call home,” said Karoleen Feng, MEDA’s Director of Community Real Estate. “Such cultural placekeeping maintains commercial tenants as an inherent part of the fabric of the Mission District’s unique Latinx identity and culture.”
“Mission Neighborhood Centers is proud to have led the effort to negotiate the purchase of 701 Alabama and return a portion of the historic Centro Social Obrero back to community ownership. By providing leadership, expertise, and leveraging MNC’s financial resources, the Consortium was able to complete the purchase of this vital community asset,” said Sam Ruiz, CEO of Mission Neighborhood Centers, Inc.
MLVS was founded by Abel Gonzalez in 1968. The late Rosario Anaya, who was the executive director from 1973 to 2015, and members of Laborers’ Union Local 261 created the school to teach vocational English and provide employment training to Spanish-speaking job seekers. Since then, the school has helped improve economic self-sufficiency for thousands of MLVS graduates and their families in the Mission District and citywide.
“The programs at Jamestown and MLVS provided a strong educational foundation and supportive space for me to grow both academically and personally. Having access to such transformative opportunities in my community, helped set me on a path for success and allowed me to realize my full potential,” said Michelle Alvarez, resident of San Francisco.
Jamestown Community Center
Through transformative youth development services rooted in the cultural and artistic traditions of our communities, Jamestown accompanies youth and their families on their path to realize their full potential as powerful and healthy members of society. jamestownsf.org
Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA)
Rooted in the Mission and focused on San Francisco, MEDA’s mission is to strengthen low- and moderate-income Latino families by promoting economic equity and social justice through asset building and community development. medasf.org
Mission Language Vocational School
The mission of MLVS is to improve the socio-economic condition of limited or non-English-speaking, low- and moderate-income Latinos and other underserved families in San Francisco and the Bay Area through job-specific language and vocational training programs and the creation of economic development initiatives. mlvschool.org
Mission Neighborhood Centers, Inc.
Mission Neighborhood Centers serves over 3,000 low-income seniors, youth and families with young children at 11 sites throughout San Francisco. With a legacy dating back over 100 years, the guiding principles remain the same: empowerment, cultural affirmation and personal responsibility. MNC provides a continuum of educational programs and social services to the community populations most in need. MNC is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization. mncsf.org