Anno Domini Flips SoFA Art Gallery to Developer Ken Tersini

San Jose’s successor to the defunct Redevelopment Agency—known as SARA—recently sold an iconic, mural-adorned building in San Jose’s quirky SoFA District to high-rise developer Ken Tersini.

The one-story cement structure, once the home of Camera One Cinema, has been occupied by Two Fish Design and Anno Domini art gallery proprietors Cherri Lakey and Brian Eder under the terms of a sweetheart rent deal that bounced between $500 and $2000 a month. That’s less than a quarter of current market rates for a 4,158-square-foot building, according to an appraisal commissioned by Lakey and Eder.

The sale came after a months-long dispute over the building’s value. The publicly-owned property at 366 S. First St., which lies between a parking lot and Café Stritch, never went on the market for open bids because the city granted the gallery operators a first right of refusal to buy the building.

Anno Domini hired an appraiser, who valued the building bought by the city in 2003 for $1.02 million at $750,000. SARA rejected that number and hired another firm to reappraise. The second one came in at $1.05 million. Eder and Lakey attorney Nicholas Petredis argued that the city’s assessment was neither reasonable nor fair. But Tersini went ahead and bought it anyway.

The SARA board then quietly authorized the sale in the middle of January to an entity registered with the California Secretary of State as 366 S. First St., LLC. The buyer, however, was not actually the duo that promotes underground art and street fairs, but a company formed by one of downtown’s biggest developers, the one that built the blue One South Market Apartments at Market and Santa Clara streets and the Axis condos on North Almaden and is now building the Silvery Towers near the San Pedro Market.

Tersini didn’t immediately respond to Fly’s request for comment about his plans for his new acquisition, which was built in 1934. Neither did Eder and Lakey. But another Tersini entity owns a 45 percent stake in the parking lot contiguous with Anno Domini, plus the Valley Title building on the corner of First and San Carlos.

Tersini hopes to build multiple high-rises on the nearly one-block SoFA site, potentially a billion dollar mega-development that would be one of downtown’s largest projects.

“My understanding is that there’s no immediate plans to demolish the building,” SARA Executive Director Richard Keit says of 366 S. First. “My guess is that they eventually may develop the whole Valley Title site, but there’s nothing in the works that I’m aware of at the moment.”

Send a tip to The Fly

The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.

14 Comments

  1. Wow! That’d be cool if they could keep a gallery space on the first floor open to the public (like the Proper Cup is on One South Market). I understand the need for new housing and that this will be better for residents overall. However, we really love that art gallery, and there’s a shortage of public art spaces in San Jose. I hope they can make a deal to open a gallery on the first floor of this new development. It could be a model for new housing developments going forward.

    • Sonya, Brian and Cherri personally brought up the value of the SOFA district though over a decade of very hard work, not just towards their own gallery, but the whole street, South First Fridays, the Subzero Fest and a series of murals and connections with local businesses to feature art on their walls…and that land was previously under public stewardship. It shouldn’t be a situation of the highest bidder. Cherri and Brian should’ve been given that land for a fair price to develop it into what they envisioned. Now, you think it’d be fair for them to be at the whim of any developer’s rent fee, simply because they might appease the public by creating an art space there? This is what happened to Empire Seven as well…and, in that case, they are building an art space on the bottom floor that has a rent so high that the proprietors of Empire Seven can’t afford it.

      • just for context, there was no bidding. the gallery owners sold their exclusive right to purchase pre-bidding to the developer. that’s what the “flips” in the headline refers to. i certainly don’t blame them for doing so. SJ has a very poor art market and they’d have been saddled with property taxes and a building in disrepair for many years to come, even though the purchase price was well below other properties in the area. hopefully the proceeds will help them reboot at another location.

    • Do you realize how short-sighted it is to be exclusively tribal about art culture? Local Color is just one thing in an art ecosystem, much of whose foundations were laid down by Anno Domini. They are totally different entities and should be co-promoting each other.

      • funny how you bring up tribalism when anno domini did its best to dominate the local art scene and went out of there way to stifle other arts folks from doing their own thing. they are out of touch hypocrites who deserve to be irrelevant. again. good riddance.

        bye Felicia.

  2. Too bad the mayor won’t allow consideration of a private percent for art ordinance that could include options for art presentation & performance space. But that might infringe on some of his developer friends. Unfortunately most of the arts vibe is being wrung out of SoFA except for the orgs that were able to buy their buildings – if they can hang onto them…but hey, there are “cranes in the air” and I guess that’s what matters.

    • We need to keep trying for this kind of policy! I think the arts groups need more of an alliance than we currently have, just to push the politicians!

  3. This headline is completely misleading and should be changed to read, “SARA flips SoFA Gallery to Developer Ken Tersini”. Anno Domini aka Brian Eder and Cherri Lakey did not “flip the gallery” to the real estate developer, SARA did while there was a debate over its appraised value. The headline made it sound as if Anno Domini cashed in, as property owners typically do when “flipping” a property after fixing it up to sell for a much higher amount than they bought it for.

    According to this article, Eder and Lakey were attempting to buy the gallery themselves, but were waiting to get an appraisal from the City of San Jose. If the City of San Jose is going to pawn off the few bits of cultural landmarks to the highest bidder, downtown San Jose will continue to lose what little culture it has.

    • the “flips” refers to the fact that the gallery owners sold their exclusive right to buy, prior to any bidding, to the developer. that probably was their best choice, and hopefully they can take those proceeds and reopen their business at another location. the successor agency was required by law to sell the property, and they did so, probably at less than they could have gotten at bidding.

      • Thank you Joe! The story did not make that transaction clear at all, but it finally explains the headline, and some of the odder text in the story.

  4. The art district known as SOFA will disappear soon. It will be replaced by street fronted high rise modern buildings on the site of Anno/Camera 1 and Valley Title. Further down on 1st St other high rises are now starting to go up. San Jose loses more of its history. The Valley Title building is a façade covered older building that might qualify for historic landmark status as would Anno/Camera 1 – -but it is getting late in the hour for any action to take place there unless locals get on it.
    One the one hand all the new high rise living spaces will provide upscale housing but with fewer and fewer art spaces and galleries don’t count on having SOFA festivals in the future.

  5. There is no reason why the City and the developer can’t work together to provide public benefits that includes maintaining historic structures, respecting the character of the First St’s visual rhythm and providing subsidies to maintain arts and music venues. That way everyone wins. The renderings of the proposed towers show them turning their sides to First St and wiping out historic buildings. This can change…it just requires the City to advocate with the developer for these benefits and urban design considerations. Surely the Tersinis, who are SJ natives, care about the city they’re building.

Leave a Reply to April Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *