Visionary Redevelopment Proposal Reveals New Look for Irish Center

What an exciting month we have had at the Center! The whole Irish American community is buzzing with optimism since the public meeting on May 7th during which we revealed a bold new visionary proposal to rebuild the Center. While the Building Working Group committee explored several options this past spring, the option to redevelop the existing site was the concept that made most sense. A new building provides the community with a greater variety of spaces devoted to cultural programming uses that is currently not available. One of the options during the period of discovery and brainstorming was to sell the existing building and move elsewhere in the city or develop a new center outside the city. This option did not enthuse or energize the group.
Neither did the idea of remodeling the center or adding couple of more floors to the existing structure. The reasoning was the high cost of rehabbing the building and tearing everything back to the studs to structurally support the addition of any new floors on top of the existing structure.

Pre-construction cost analysis for the new building comes in at $45-50 million dollars. The grand redevelopment plan proposed by Redmond Lyons and his committee calls on the entire community to contribute and participate with their Time, Talent or Treasure. Many in the community will be able to donate money to help rebuild, but there are others who have graciously already offered their time and talents to the committee to rebuild the Center.

Whatever happens, there is a mountain of work to be done in the meantime, so roll up your sleeves!
The conceptual plan to redevelop the Irish Center was developed by Dane Bunton and Nastaran Mousavi, Principal Architects at Studio BANAA, San Francisco. Both architects had provided some “pro-bono” work last year to the Board as part of an effort to repurpose some of the spaces at the Center, when we explored the concept of a remodel to the existing structure. Earlier this year we reached back out to the firm to get their input on a new building redesign.

The new conceptual building provides almost 100,000 square feet of space. Our current building is a 20,000 square feet facility. However, nothing is set in stone yet as to what will eventually be built, and the next step is a meeting with the San Francisco Department of City Planning.

The new building will consist of two floors underground and six floors above ground level. The subterranean areas are made up of one floor of dedicated parking with room for 30 vehicles, while the second floor houses an aquatics center with a 5 lane pool, saunas, kiddies pool and locker rooms.

The above ground structure will house a dedicated museum on the ground floor at street level, with a bar, restaurant and gallery or entertainment venue. On the second floor, the St. Patricks room occupies the entire footprint of the building with a stage, bar, and kitchen. The third floor consists of a dedicated library and genealogy center. The fourth floor consists of Irish dance studios, music, language and conference rooms, administration and office space. The fifth floor consists of a gym and exercise studio and sports hall. The sixth floor houses the rooftop restaurant, garden and observation deck. The new building provides for more space dedicated to cultural programming, the library and Irish arts.

The May 7th meeting was well attended by a large cross section of the community, and the message about a proposed new building well received overall.

The same sentiment was present at the General Members meeting on May 13th, during which the membership voted unanimously to proceed with the rebuild concept and to take it through to the next phase. For more information about the plan for the future of the Irish Center go to
A capital campaign committee is being currently being established to help fundraise for the project. If you would like to get involved email:

Around the Center

After an absence of the more than two decades, an Irish dance Feis returns to the Center on Sunday June 27th, as we host the 2021 John and Maureen Kennelly Memorial Feis. Competitions start at 8am and will run throughout the day. We celebrate the one year anniversary of Wawona Gates on Saturday June 19th and all local Irish dance schools are invited to participate to dance on the outside dance stage from 2.00-3.45pm
Our Irish Summer camp starts June 7th at the Collins Center, St. Cecilia’s Church. Kids will have a chance to learn how to play the drums, tin whistle or keyboards, speak Irish, participate in drama, storytelling, multi-media production, art classes, and even hip hop! On Friday June 25th there will be a concert featuring all the campers at the Irish Center.

The Irish Dance exhibition organizing group spearheaded by Anne Cassidy Carew is busy collecting memorabilia and documenting Irish dance stories at the moment. The group will continue their efforts through the summer in time for the fall presentation. If you have a story to tell or something to contribute you can reach her at

We have great music lined up for Wawona Gates in June. Kevin Roche trio play on June 5th. On June 12th we host Ivor Collins, Bryan Lynch and Eoin O’Sullivan. The first year anniversary of Wawona Gates occurs on June 19th and sees the return of Fret & Fiddle from Pacifica. On June 26th, we welcome back the Boys of Malin, Felim Egan (accordion), Darcy Noonan (fiddle) and Eamonn Flynn (keyboards) on June 26th.

Many thanks to all those who came out to Wawona Gates and volunteered or participated in the Dowling Library Fundraiser during the Kentucky Derby on May 1st. There was plenty of colorful fascinators, and style on display during the afternoon of fun. The big winner on the day was the Library.

A special word of congratulations to all the students who received Leo T Walsh scholarships last month. A combined total of $40,000 was disbursed by the committee to graduating 8th Grade students and High School Seniors heading off to college in the fall . Special thanks to Peggy Nevin and Carmelle Reiser for co-ordinating this years efforts. Many thanks to all the donors and sponsors of the Awards-without you there would be no cause for celebration!

Safe travels to all those who are traveling this summer! Stay Safe!

Liam Reidy, President