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More On Ford Assembly Building Award

Below is media coverage and more information on the Ford Assembly Building Wins National Trust for Historic Preservation Honor Award, June 17, 2008:

Richmond's Ford Assembly Plant wins national historic preservation award

By Katherine Tam
West County Times

Article Launched: 06/21/2008 04:13:25 PM PDT

The old Ford Assembly Plant on Richmond's waterfront survived the end of its car-assembling years, a major earthquake, water damage, vandals and multiple proposals for its demolition to witness a rebirth that has now captured national acclaim.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has awarded the building one of 15 National Preservation Honor Awards. Winners will be lauded at a conference Oct. 23.

The building, now called Ford Point, is one of Richmond's historic gems and is part of the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home front National Historic Park. Workers in the 1930s assembled cars there and routed them to dealers in Northern California and Hawaii. In 1942, the plant switched to assembling thousands of jeeps, tanks and other military vehicles as part of the World War II home front effort.

The plant closed in 1956 and was partially used for storage. But the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake severely damaged the building in 1989, shattering windows and toppling the brick parapet on the roof, according to Steve Duran, the city's community and economic development director.

The sprawling 517,000-square-foot building sat vacant. Rain fell through broken skylights and windows, and pooled on the floor.

Local historians refused to let it languish, even as others proposed demolishing the building entirely. Councilman Tom Butt's company, Interactive Resources, successfully nominated the building for the National Register of Historic Places to help ward off attempts to raze it.

In the push to corral millions for the restoration, then-Mayor Rosemary Corbin journeyed to Washington, D.C., to meet with the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"They were only going to give us less than $1 million," Corbin said. "We had to prove it was damaged in the quake and needed the money. They made us jump through hoops, but we got it."

Intense lobbying won $14 million from FEMA and another $4.5 million from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development. City officials put in more than $16 million in redevelopment money and partnered with Orton Development to complete the work. In 2003, the city sold the building to Orton for $5.4 million.

New tenants began moving in last year for the first time since Loma Prieta. More than 90 percent of the building is leased to a half-dozen tenants, including SunPower, Mountain Hardwear, Vetrazzo and Title Nine.

Renovation continues on site. The 40,000-square-foot craneway with waterfront views of San Francisco is being transformed into a restaurant, banquet hall and concert venue that is scheduled to open as early as August, said James Madsen, Orton's craneway project manager.

In addition, a visitors center for Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home front National Historic Park will be housed in part of the craneway, city officials said.

Had it been demolished, the Ford building would have been difficult if not impossible to rebuild in the same footprint, because newer coastline laws would have prohibited such construction, Corbin said.

"It's a major structure that is significant historically and a linchpin for economic development for that whole area," Corbin said.

Reach Katherine Tam at 510-262-2787 or ktam@bayareanewsgroup.com.