“We’re starting a restoration, a transformation of that block that we believe will revitalize downtown,” said Shvo, who said he’s also in talks to bring three public restaurants to the pyramid.
It will be Core’s third location after New York, where it is moving into another Shvo-owned building, and Milan, Italy.
“We’re very bullish on San Francisco and big cities generally, especially gateway cities,” said Jennie Enterprise, founder and chairman of Core, which opened in 2005. “We weren’t compelled to expand. It had to be an evolution that made sense. It’s about finding a city that’s internationally relevant and culturally vibrant.”
San Francisco is a center of innovation, culture and food, qualities that haven’t been dimmed by the pandemic, she said.
Core plans to create “several hundred new jobs” at the pyramid. The club will bring in chefs from around the world and plans numerous cultural events, including public ones at the adjacent Transamerica Redwood Park. Core’s New York location has hosted 200 events a year including talks with high-profile actors and artists such as James Franco and Jeff Koons.
It won’t be cheap to get in.
Core’s initiation fees range from $15,000 to $100,000 for a “founding membership,” which gives access to an entire family. Only 20 are available in San Francisco, with annual fees ranging from $15,000 to $18,000. A membership, which is invite-only, gives access to the San Francisco, New York and Milan locations. Food, drinks and other services cost extra.
Core signed a 20-year lease for 45,000 square feet at the Transamerica Pyramid last year, part of a burst of business activity that came despite San Francisco’s doldrums during the pandemic — office vacancy has more than tripled to around 20%. Shvo said he’s signed and renewed leases at the pyramid with multiple tenants, including Core, totaling over 100,000 square feet in the past year, with rents over $100 per square foot annually, some of the highest in the country. It’s a vindication, he said, of his strategy of buying only “super prime real estate.”
Shvo and his partners bought the pyramid and two nearby buildings in October 2020 for $650 million from Aegon, the parent of Transamerica Corp. It was the first time the building had been sold since it opened in 1972.
Shvo was born in Israel and owned a taxi fleet in New York before becoming a top real estate broker and launching his own eponymous firm in 2004, focusing on luxury condo projects around the world.
He pleaded guilty in 2018 to tax evasion tied to fine art, jewelry and a Ferrari purchase and settled for $3.5 million, avoiding prison time. New York prosecutors said, “Shvo’s brand of tax evasion was an art form unto itself.”
He has been one of the most active investors during the pandemic, scooping up the pyramid, along with 333 South Wabash in Chicago, a notable red building in the city’s skyline, and 530 Broadway in New York. Shvo’s partners include Deutsche Finance America and Bayerische Versorgungskammer, Germany’s biggest pension fund. He is also developing a 54-unit Mandarin Oriental luxury condo project in Beverly Hills, part of a West Coast expansion that has him hungry for more properties.
“COVID is a moment in time,” he said. “There was life before COVID. There will be life after COVID.”
He said he also plans to propose a new office building at 545 Sansome St. next to the pyramid, though no proposal has been finalized.
The pandemic has highlighted that in-person experiences and interactions are indispensable, another reason for Core to be expanding, Enterprise said.
“You can Zoom all you want,” she said. “There is no substitute for community.”
Roland Li is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @rolandlisf