01/31/2013 01:10 am ET

San Francisco's Union Square Art Galleries Suffer Under Tech Boom

SAN FRANCISCO -- George Krevsky has been in a fixture in the Bay Area art scene for over 30 years. His legendary Union Square gallery aims to document the city's history piece by piece.

But a recent tech boom could signify the final chapter of his own.

Krevsky is one of many Union Square art gallery owners impacted by the recent flood of technology start-ups. As young companies enter the neighborhood, landlords are increasingly renting to techies who can shell out higher payments than gallery owners.

"It has impacted everyone in [my] building," Krevsky told The Huffington Post. "The tech companies are willing to pay high market rent for the space."

Krevsky's outpost, located at 77 Geary Street, used to be home to five art galleries. Now, only three remain, and he suspects the rent spikes pushed the other owners out of the space.

In the past few months, Krevsky's rent jumped an estimated 20 percent. And despite his deep roots on Geary, he says his landlords were hesitant to offer him a long-term lease.

The Union Square neighborhood currently boasts largest concentration of gallery owners in San Francisco. It became the city's fine arts epicenter in the 1980s, when dealers sought to take advantage of the area's abundance of hotels and high-end retail outlets.

"When people come to San Francisco and they are at all interested in art, they will go to Union Square," Nevska Gallery Director Joel Savitz told HuffPost. "There's no question."

Nevska Gallery was located at 357 Geary for nearly 20 years, but a steady incline in rent caused the gallery to relocate further west to 456 Geary. The new space costs less than 40 percent of the old gallery, according to Savitz.

Though the gallery only moved a short distance, it provides a small scale example of a larger trend occurring within the city's art scene.

"In most cities, the art districts move around, they're very fluid," Brian Gross, who owns Brian Gross Fine Art, told HuffPost. "San Francisco is growing and changing, and its decentralizing."

Facing a 32 percent increase in rent, Gross plans to relocate his gallery, currently situated in the heart of Union Square, to a larger and cheaper space in Potrero Hill this spring.

Gross has been based in Union Square since 1995, but he says he's ready for the change. "I think the time is right," he said. "There's a certain kind of freedom that the space offers, you don't find it in [Union Square]."

As gallery owners continue to struggle, the Union Square Business Improvement District is strategizing new ways to help. The organization will soon begin a marketing audit, interviewing gallery owners will be interviewed as part of the research.

For his part, Krevsky plans to stay in Union Square as long as possible. Though he acknowledges the influx of new technology can bring growth to city, he remains cautious of its downside.

"We have to be careful; [technology] is like pandora's box," he said. "The best systems will remain, and a lot of other peripheral organizations will fall by the wayside. Society will be select; culture will be select in [determining] what survives."



International Art Museum Of America