Culture and Arts Program Expansion Planned for 2022 

A very Happy New Year to our members. Many thanks to all those who helped us end 2021 on a high note, with very generous responses to our annual appeal, library raffle and several funded pledges to the 2025 Project. We are grateful to all of you who made personal donations and contributions in memory of a loved one. A special thank you to the Rebel Cork Benevolent Association for their gift of $250,000 and to the Government of Ireland, for the Strategic Diaspora Development Project Grant of $100,000 towards the 2025 Project. Thank you to all those that have renewed their membership for 2022. January is our most active month for renewals, so watch out for your e-mailed or mailed invoice. We appreciate the support and remember there are many chances to avail yourself of member discounts during the spring to UICC sponsored cultural events. Look for discounts to two great upcoming concerts including Phil Coulter (February 5th) and Eileen Ivers (March 11th).

Big Changes in Store for the West Side

Many of you will be aware of our own ambitious plan for redeveloping our facility at 45th and Wawona. Less may be known about the recently proposed multi-unit residential and retail development across the street (to the west) where the Sloat Garden Center is currently housed. The site was sold in 2020 to a developer for $8.55 million, and last month we learned that the developers propose to construct a 400-unit building reaching 12 story which will rise 125 feet in the air. While our own proposed vision for the new Irish Center reimagines it as a Community Center for the neighborhood – housing a museum, library, performing arts space, theater, swimming pool, gym, roof garden, 30 parking spots, hospitality space and office space for local non-profits – it will feature no residential housing. 

The proposed plans for the Sloat Garden Center would yield 400 condominium units (a mix of 128 studios; 96 one-bedrooms; 131 twos and 45 threes, ranging in size from 350 to 1,080 square feet), with 9,700 square feet of corner and Sloat Boulevard-facing retail space, an interior courtyard and two large roof decks for the building’s residents, and a basement garage for 200 bikes and 56 cars. It is quite a daunting proposal (see photo here on this page), and the developers will submit plans in the coming months to the Planning Commission. 

The west side of the city (Parkside and Sunset) is changing and has evolved dramatically in the 47 years since the Irish Center first opened its doors. The development proposals being submitted to Planning are from the surrounding neighborhoods (from traffic corridors like Taraval, Irving, Judah Streets) and the local community is part of that continuous evolution of the urban built environment which makes San Francisco a world class city. We believe our proposed Irish American Community Center is part of that future vision for a constantly changing San Francisco.

2025 Project Updates 

After a rigorous peer review of the architectural drawings, structural plans and practicality of the interior and exterior features of the building over the past three months, the 2025 Project Building group (Redmond Lyons, Leo Cassidy, Mark Conroe, Seamus Canning, Michael Coleman and myslef), along with architects Studio BANAA, aim to submit the plans to the city Planning Department for review this month. The Preliminary Plan Assessment (PPA) was received from Planning on December 11th, and we are working toward the recommendations included in that report and also moving forward with our application for a Special Use District (SUD) for the site. Wind, shadow, and transportation studies are planned for this spring. We will be busy behind the scenes during much of January preparing a grant application to the state of California for partial funding of our 2025 Project.

Kids Cultural Programming Expansion 

During January and February we will offer classes for kids (ages 7 years and up) to learn how to sing Irish songs and ballads, play Irish music, and a chance to act as part of a kids’ drama program. We will offer kids the opportunity to learn how to play the tin whistle, bodhrán, banjo, guitar, keyboards, piano, and fiddle. Most of the music classes will take place on Saturdays. The Irish Pipers will provide instruction in piping and drumming on Thursday nights, while drama classes will take place on Friday evenings. More details on how to sign up are on the Irish Center website. At the end of the seven week workshop, local session musician Eamonn Flynn will produce a show on Saturday February 26th, showcasing the history of Dublin, Ireland in songs and stories. Many of the kids in the Irish music, singing, and drama classes this spring will feature in the show. 

Library and Scholarship Donations 

Peggy Nevin reported robust participation for the 2nd Annual Raffle supporting the Patrick J. Dowling Library & the Leo T. Walsh Scholarship Funds. Congratulations to the fundraising prize winners; Tim Walsh, Patrick Carlin, Jr., & Melinda Madigan. A very heartfelt thank you to everyone that participated, both with raffle tickets and donations. Scholarship applications (open to graduating eighth graders & high School seniors) for the 2022 scholarship program will be available in February, due in March, and awarded in May. Details will be on the UICC website, scholarship tab, February 1, 2022.

Irish Dance Showcase 

While the Keepers of the Steps Irish Dance exhibition kicks off on Thursday, January 13th for three weeks, the John and Maureen Kennelly Memorial Feis is the highlight of the weekend of January 15 – 16th. Almost 300 Irish Dance competitors are expected at the Center over the weekend. 

Liam Reidy, President