How many opportunities does the typical multifamily developer get to build out 154 luxury apartments inside of a national park in the middle of one of the strongest rental markets in the country? “Basically one,” says ForestCity Residential West president Kevin Ratner of Presidio Landmark, the company’s adaptive reuse project in San Francisco’s Presidio National Historic Landmark District. Cleveland-based ForestCity has transformed the abandoned U.S. Public Health Service Hospital into some of the city’s most exclusive apartments—and is already fetching market-clearing rents.

“I have seen a lot of residential properties, and I love all of the ones in our portfolio. But this one is pretty special,” Ratner says.

Credit that to location. Originally built in 1875 as the U.S. Marine Hospital, the structure was sited on windswept sand dunes west of downtown San Francisco to discourage recuperating sailors from indulging in the temptations of the city’s drinking, gambling, and prostitution dens. Today, Presidio Landmark sits almost in the center of city limits but still boasts quiet reflection as part of the 1,480-acre Presidio San Francisco National Park, offering residents hiking and biking trails from their front doors as well as quick access to the Golden Gate Bridge, the Golden Gate Recreation Area, and metro service to the city’s financial center.

“One of the things we felt was really important, and how we have consequently tried to position the project, was the idea that—for people who are into the outdoors and athletics—living here gives you access to all the things you can do,” Ratner explains. “You can walk to Baker Beach to windsurf or kite board. There are hiking trails because the park is literally your backyard. It is very connected to what is out here and what is happening in this area of the city.”

Space Savers

Since the Presidio does not allow any new net-square-footage development, managing available space was, in fact, a defining challenge in the transformation of the hospital into residential apartment units. For example, when building out the hospital basement into a parking garage, ForestCity sacrificed valuable space for a bicycle storage and repair shop room featuring resident bike lockers and racks and benches outfitted with the latest repair tools.