Meanwhile, back in San Francisco, where Black Rock LLC was earlier this year forced to move from its longtime Third Street headquarters because of plans by UC Mission Bay to build a hospital on the site, Burning Man and city officials are collaborating on plans for a showcase space.
"While all this is going on, we have been talking to the city about moving downtown. They really want us there," Harvey said.
The organization came close to landing on a big space in the Tenderloin, but that fell through. Recently, Harvey and city officials even toured the San Francisco Chronicle building at the corner of Mission and Fifth streets, which Hearst Corporation has had on the real estate market for some time, exploring the possibility of it becoming the new Burning Man headquarters.
For that site and other high-profile spots around downtown, city planners and economic development officials are actively courting significant tenants that would bring interactive art and creative vitality to street life in the urban core. "Well, that's like a theme camp," Harvey said. "That's what we do."
In recent years, Black Rock LLC has expanded what it does through Black Rock Arts Foundation (which funds and facilitates public art off the playa), Burners Without Borders (which does good works from Hurricane Katrina cleanup to rebuilding after the earthquake in Pisco, Peru), Black Rock Solar (which uses volunteer labor to do affordable solar project for public entities), and other efforts.
But simultaneously creating a think tank, retreat, and high-profile headquarters with all the money that would require could reshape the institution and its relationship with San Francisco in big and unpredictable ways. Harvey describes it as entering a new era, one he says he is approaching carefully and with the intention of maximum community involvement in key decisions: "You want to build trust and enthusiasm as you go along."