San Francisco Business Times by Alex Barreira | September 24, 2021
Rivian Automotive, the Irvine unicorn developing an all-electric pickup truck competing with Tesla’s latest models, plans to take over 19,000 square feet in Hayes Valley for a sales office and repair facility, according to public documents filed with San Francisco.
Rivian wants to take two buildings at 340 and 362 Fell St. currently occupied by California Detailing, Fell Street Auto Service and Domport Auto Body.
The company intends to set aside a little over 5,100 square feet permitted for automobile sales for a sales area featuring educational and marketing materials to introduce the brand to the community. The rest of the space would be dedicated to service and repair for Rivian's own electric vehicles.
The proposal, submitted in February, is under review as of Sept. 1, according to Planning Department records. MBH Architects, which also designed Union Square's 300 Grant Ave., is the project's lead designer. Their rendering of the finished store frontage can be found here.
A letter of support for the project from California Detailing and Domport Auto Body said Rivian contacted the two businesses in February to let them know it was under contract to purchase the building, and to talk about giving them adequate time and support for relocation. The two tenants said the building's then current owner and Rivian gave them "a real opportunity" by offering to cover their costs of relocation — including tenant improvement work at their new places of business — and also providing additional time of occupancy in the building rent-free while they prepared for the move.
A representative of Rivian was not immediately available for comment on Friday but I’ll update this story if I hear back.
Deliveries of Rivian's R1T pickup are expected to begin later this month, reports TechCrunch. Prices begin at $69,000.
Rivian, founded in 2009 by CEO RJ Scaringe, has raised more than $10 billion from investors including Amazon, T. Rowe Price, Fidelity, Ford Motor Co. and Blackrock. On Aug. 30 it filed confidentially for an initial public offering. The company will soon open a $4.6 million service support center for the vehicle's first owners in Plymouth, Michigan.
The proposed sales room and repair shop would add to Rivian's Bay Area presence, which includes a software and engineering office in Palo Alto.
Hayes Valley is one of three neighborhoods in the city, along with Chinatown and North Beach, that doesn’t permit formula retailers (defined by the city as having 11 or more locations worldwide) from setting up shop — a policy that has inspired its fair amount of hair-pulling from midsized retailers and restaurants along with the brokers representing them. It's unclear if Rivian's current retail footprint elsewhere would be sufficient to trigger the formula retail ban, but typically when a well-known brand sets its sights on Hayes Valley it has this in mind.
Some well-funded and well-known retailers, particularly direct-to-consumer brands, have gotten around the formula retail rule by earmarking Hayes Valley for one of its first brick-and-mortars. Past companies opting for this route include Allbirds, Warby Parker, Madison Reed and Away. Even Gap Inc. scored a foothold on Octavia Street with a store under the technical operation of its men’s fitness wear brand, Hill City, which has since closed.
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