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Former Tenderloin Porn Palace Begins Second Act As Avant-Garde Theater

Welcome to the new Dollhouse.

 

One man’s seedy past is another man’s design opportunity. Jensen Architects has transformed the run-down Tenderloin porn cinema Dollhouse into a spanking-new, $6.3 million venue for the avant-garde performance theater CounterPulse, opening October 16 (80 Turk St., near Taylor St.).

The lipstick-pink exterior and the come-hither silhouettes in the windows are gone, replaced by a new neon marquee, polished concrete floors, and a two-tier lobby flooded with light.

Performers will have the run of a 900-square-foot stage equipped with LED lighting and a Meyer six-point surround-sound system, as well as two rehearsal spaces. It’s a significant upgrade from CounterPulse’s former “glorified boom box” in SoMa, says artistic director Julie Phelps.

But how, exactly, can a pint-size theater company afford a $6.3 million facility? (Did we mention the in-house apartment for visiting artists?) It can’t—but through partnerships it can. The venue was purchased through the Community Art Stabilization Trust, established in 2013 to offer properties to arts tenants affected by rising rents. Thanks to a special deed restriction, the theater will remain reserved for artists even if CounterPulse goes the way of the Dollhouse.


Read more New Rules of Design coverage here.


Correction
: The original version of this story erroneously suggested that the City of San Francisco purchased CounterPulse's building through the Community Art Stabilization Trust. The trust is private, and is not affiliated with city government. We regret the error.

Originally published in the October issue of San Francisco

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