The Armory Community Center is poised to host public sports, art and educational events, as well as private functions, now that the city has granted a recreation permit allowing the owner of the landmark brick structure to expand its G-rated family fare.
The driver behind the project is Peter Acworth, owner of the historic Mission building and founder of Kink.com, an Internet company that produces BDSM-themed (dominant and submissive sexual role-playing and bondage) content for the web. Kink.com and the new events space will be kept separate, Andrew Harvill, director of TACC, was quick to explain.
“Peter wants to diversify,” Harvill said. “He doesn’t want to do only porn.”
Work to transform a 40,000-square-foot drill court began at the start of this year. The space was previously available for use with day permits, which made it impossible to streamline a long-term events calendar with repeating events, such as the multi-night theater production that will open next month. The American Conservatory Theater will put on “Black Watch” from May 9 through June 9.
Kink.com staff said that company activities won’t affect events at TACC, and that the two spaces will have different entries.
“We are working hard to show that this is not porn-related,” said Harvill. The studio has been criticized by community members for the nature of its product. “We don’t know how the neighbors are going to respond, but we want to work very closely with them,” he said.
The first conversations, Harvill said, have been mostly positive, except for one person “who just didn’t like Peter and what he does.” Even some members of the Anarchist Book Fair, which was held at the armory last month, were skeptical of having their event at the BDSM headquarters. Harvill is considering proposing monthly meetings with neighbors to keep the lines of communication open. “If they weren’t happy, we would consider it a failure,” he said.
Neighbors did complain when Kink.com moved into the Armory building at 14th and Mission streets in 2007, but the relationship seems to have eased since then. “I think they have done a good job keeping the property clean outside and keeping it private. Those were the major concerns,” said Roberto Hernandez, a longtime community organizer in the Mission who was one of the protesters in 2007.
Hernandez described this new venture as “great,” emphasizing that the center will not be part of Kink.com and will have a separate entrance. The company’s plan to offer reduced rates to nonprofit and neighborhood groups that want to rent the space will be excellent for the community, Hernandez said. ...