Coit Tower News - November 2013

COIT TOWER NEWS – November 2013
On Monday, November 18, the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department closed Coit Tower to the public to begin a series of badly needed major repairs and renovations of the Coit Tower exterior, interior, and a restoration of the damaged historic murals.  The anticipated schedule of the project is five months, from November 18, 2013 until April 18, 2014.  This will be the largest and most comprehensive restoration of Coit Tower in its 80 year history.
“We are thrilled to see this long-overdue Coit Tower preservation project get underway thanks to San Francisco voters demanding that the city stop allowing Coit Tower and its historic murals to fall into decay and start treating Coit Tower like the incredibly valuable place it really is,” said Jon Golinger, Chairman of the group Protect Coit Tower, which sponsored the Coit Tower Preservation ballot measure approved by San Francisco voters in June 2012.  “We are looking forward to the reopening of Coit Tower in the spring when it will be back in good shape and ready to shine once again.” 
The $1.7 million Coit Tower repair and restoration project includes urgent repairs of cracks in the exterior walls near the top of Coit Tower, door and window replacement to reduce water leakage, lead paint abatement, upgrades to mechanical, plumbing and building systems, upgrades to exterior lighting, modification of guardrails and handrails, new accessibility and educational signage, and new barriers to protect the 27 historic New-Deal era murals and paintings inside Coit Tower. 
All of the city’s construction work during the five-month Coit Tower renovation project will be carefully monitored by the San Francisco Arts Commission to ensure that the historic fresco murals are not damaged, as they have been by other construction work inside Coit Tower in the past.  Protect Coit Tower asked Arts Commission Senior Registrar Allison Cummings for details about the precautions being taken to protect the murals and the status of the mural restoration and conservation project that will commence after most of the building repairs are complete.  Questions and answers from the Arts Commission follow:

1) How are the Coit Tower murals being protected during the renovation project to ensure they are not inadvertently damaged by workers or construction equipment?

Extensive mural protection measures are in place for the duration of the project. Specifications for mural protection, written by ARG-CS, were included as a part of the Rec & Park bid process, and the selected General Contractor is compliant. These specifications included physical protections for the floor, bronze railings, historic fixtures, and murals. These physical protections are barriers that prevent any mechanical interaction with sensitive surfaces for the duration of construction. In addition, all workers and subs on site receive sensitivity training and instruction how to properly move through the building. Arts Commission staff, ARG-CS staff, and Rec & Park staff have an active presence on site and continually monitor GC compliance.

2)  Is someone from the Arts Commission on-site at Coit Tower during the renovation project on a regular basis to monitor the murals and ensure their protection?

We have built multiple monitoring redundancies into the construction project. The Arts Commission and Rec & Park staffs are on site regularly. In addition, architectural staff from ARG and conservation staff from ARG-CS are in place to monitor the murals throughout the project. We are not only monitoring the construction process, we are conducting environmental monitoring and readings that will inform the conservation treatments. The murals were documented extensively before any construction began, establishing baseline conditions where changes can be easily detected during the course of the project.

3)  What is the status of the Art Commission's Coit Tower mural restoration project?  Has a contract been awarded yet to a person or organization to engage in the Coit Tower mural restoration and preservation project?

ARG-CS is the firm chosen to conduct the mural restoration. The lead conservator on the project is Anne Rosenthal who will be working with Jim Bernstein and Gregory Thomas – the same team that conducted the highly successful conservation project that took place from 1989-1992. The conservation survey of the murals, materials testing and environmental monitoring is underway. The treatment phase is scheduled to begin mid-March 2014 after completion of interior construction work.

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