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J Church May 26, 2006 11:44 PM

SAN FRANCISCO | Salesforce Transit Center
 
I posted a thread about this awhile back but it appears to have dropped out of sight. Oh, well. The proposal has been greatly revised.

No renderings yet, as the idea is strictly conceptual at this point -- no developers, no architects, just an official plan. That said:

http://sfgate.com/c/pictures/2006/05..._sf_towers.jpg

http://sfgate.com/c/pictures/2006/05...ers26_ph01.jpg

Short version: An old bus terminal on the edge of the Financial District has been slated for awhile now for demolition, to be replaced with a multimodal station serving Caltrain (commuter rail from the Silicon Valley, which would be upgraded to electric power and extended through a tunnel from its current terminus a mile or so away) and California High-Speed Rail, assuming it's built (vote on a starter bond has been delayed to 2008). It would be called the Transbay Transit Center, although it's still informally referred to by the name of the existing bus station, Transbay Terminal.

To help fund the project, several acres of surrounding property owned by the city would be redeveloped. Much of the property used to be the site of the Embarcadero Freeway, demolished after the 1989 earthquake, and is now parking lots. The original plan called for a half-dozen towers between 300 and 550 feet tall, and a seventh attached to the terminal that could be 700 or 800 feet tall (note also in the above renderings several nearby towers that are part of another plan, some of which are now under construction).

But the funding plan included a half-billion dollars from the high-speed rail bond, and as it's been repeatedly delayed officials have begun looking for other funding sources. In December a plan was announced that would increase the signature tower's height to 850' to the roof, 925' with a crown. Yesterday, another plan was announced upgrading the landmark tower to a thousand-footer, perhaps even the tallest building in the West (Library Tower is 1,018'). Additionally, sites have been found nearby for two new towers; one is now a parking lot, and the other a nondescript midrise. It's a bit unclear whether they would be taller than 800', or taller than 850'. In San Francisco, this is no small matter as our current tallest, the Transamerica Pyramid, is 853'.

Note that this graphic is off, as 345 California Center is 693' to the tips of its spires, not its roof.

http://sfgate.com/c/pictures/2006/05...t_building.jpg

Here's the story:

S.F. planners have high hopes for new center of downtown
Skyline boasting tallest building in the West envisioned on site of dingy transit terminal
- John King, Chronicle Urban Design Writer
Friday, May 26, 2006

Thirty-five years after the Transamerica Pyramid became the peak that defines San Francisco's skyline, city officials said Thursday that they want to push even higher -- making room for what could be the tallest tower west of Chicago.

The idea would be to raise height limits on several blocks south of Market Street to allow two towers as tall as the 853-foot Transamerica building and a third that would climb at least an additional 150 feet -- to more than 1,000 feet tall.

"It's a big idea, but we think the time has come for the city to think along these lines," said Dean Macris, director of the city's Planning Department. "This is our opportunity to create something special on the ground and in the sky."

Macris and other officials stressed that any changes would require at least two years of planning and environmental studies. No developer has yet proposed actual buildings, and there also could be opposition from people who see San Francisco as a place of low-slung neighborhoods, not skyscraping towers.

"We're not saying, 'Let the zoning begin,' " Macris said. "We're saying, 'Here are ideas.' We need to see if there is public support and leadership support."

Macris and other officials unveiled their proposal Thursday to the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, the government body in charge of building a new station to replace the dingy Transbay Terminal at First and Mission streets now used by many of the region's public bus systems.

The estimated budget for the project, including a downtown extension of the Caltrain commuter line with room for future high-speed rail, is $3.35 billion.

Forty acres near the existing terminal were rezoned last year to aid the project. The current plan allows a 550-foot tower next to the terminal and six others above 300 feet. Those towers would go on public land that would be sold to help pay for the Transbay project.

The new approach would loosen zoning even more by allowing several towers to grow higher. The highest trio would rise near the corner of First and Mission.

The zoning changes could bring as much as $250 million in new funding to the terminal project, according to the work of the planners -- a group pulled from several city departments and the Transbay authority. The money would include extra revenue from the publicly owned sites and new tax revenue from privately owned land that would increase in value as a result of more-generous zoning.

But planners say that a cluster of extra-tall towers also would serve an aesthetic purpose -- given that residential towers as high as 600 feet already are under construction between Mission Street and the Bay Bridge. The trio of extra-tall buildings theoretically would serve as a sort of peak to the transformed skyline.

"This is the new center of downtown ... what makes sense to us is an exploration of heights of 1,000 feet or more at the transit terminal, or on some other nearby site," said David Alumbaugh, a senior urban planner at the San Francisco Planning Department. "We think it's a compelling vision that would be a dramatic new skyline for the city."

While that vision wasn't questioned at Thursday's hearing, it could be challenged by San Franciscans who have battled tall buildings in the past.

The construction of the Transamerica Pyramid and the 779-foot Bank of America building in the early 1970s spurred a succession of anti-growth initiatives on the city ballot. A 1972 urban design plan set a top height of 700 feet in the Financial District. Heights were lowered to 550 feet in the 1985 downtown plan that also gave landmark status to 250 older buildings.

The planning director in 1985 was Macris, who left in 1992 but was brought back from retirement in 2004 by Mayor Gavin Newsom.

"During the '80s, there was enormous public reaction to the loss of historical and good-looking buildings downtown. Opposing heights was a way to get a handle on the pace of change," Macris said Thursday. By contrast, the green light for residential towers south of Market Street has sparked little comment.

Other cities have become more open to extra height in recent years. In Seattle, a voter-imposed height limit from 1989 was removed last month to allow for residential high-rises. Closer to home, an Oakland developer has proposed a tower at 19th and Broadway that would be nearly as tall as the Transamerica Pyramid.

The tallest building on the West Coast is the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles at 1,018 feet.

Since the Transbay Joint Powers Authority was created in 2001, plans to create a Grand Central Terminal-like transit hub have moved slowly.

One funding piece fell out this year when state officials delayed plans for a statewide vote on a high-speed rail bond that would include $475 million for the San Francisco leg of the project. Last year, a legal battle over control of land next to the terminal site was settled when $58 million was paid to a developer planning a residential tower on the site.

A measure on the June 6 ballot would give the Board of Supervisors two seats on the Transbay board instead of the one it now has. The other members are representatives of Newsom, Muni, AC Transit and the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board.

Measure C was crafted by Supervisor Chris Daly, who serves on the Transbay board and has feuded with Newsom over the project. On Thursday, he said the tentative plan could be a good way to move the project along but said that extra revenues should be steered to the neighborhood as well as the transit project.

"It looks like a good proposal if you like height. I like height, but some people in San Francisco don't," Daly said. "There needs to be a public discussion."

***

This being San Francisco, this is far from a done deal. But if a thousand-footer is ever going to be built around here, this may be our best chance, as it's attached to an important and popular transit project.

Updates to come, no doubt.

Jasonhouse May 27, 2006 12:24 AM

It's worth doing if only for the extra $250million in project fees, plus the additional revenue to the property tax base... Smart, efficient growth like this is exactly what San Francisco needs to do to maintain a good balance sheet, even as population growth remains stagnant.

JMGarcia May 27, 2006 12:39 AM

It would be fantastic for the city's skyline if well done. The value in tourist advertising alone would be phenomenal. It could present an entirely new SF image.

tech12 May 27, 2006 2:03 AM

the current consensus from chronicle readers:

http://img139.imageshack.us/img139/6...bayvote7fr.jpg

not bad, i guess...

Stephenapolis May 27, 2006 3:05 AM

I am surprised to see the numbers that high in that poll for "yes". It would be nice to see SF's skyline grow upwards more.

Spooky873 May 27, 2006 4:03 AM

or any for that matter. hopefully SF can get a new one.

JMGarcia May 27, 2006 5:10 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by tech12
the current consensus from chronicle readers:

http://img139.imageshack.us/img139/6...bayvote7fr.jpg

not bad, i guess...

...aaahh Manhattan. The center of all things evil and certainly not be emulated. ;) But SF too Manhattanized already? Not even close. I scoff... ;)

dimondpark May 27, 2006 5:39 AM

JM, What we have now is as far as many San Franciscans want to go.

Ironically, much of the belly aching is from former Manhattanites and East Coasters who moved to San Francisco and in the 1950s,1960s,1970s and 1980s. I happen to have a former boss who was born and raised in The Upper East Side and he would go off at the notion of San Francisco becoming like Manhattan-which I found odd. He and people like him campaigned vociferously against the development of new highrises. If it werent for them, San Francisco would probably look very different then it now does, and a Thousand Footer or Two probably would have already graced the skyline by now.

Their arguments vary from protecting bay and hill views to the shadows of buildings making it too cold inside canyons of skyscrapers to earthquake safety to blatant corporate displays of power etc. Its all quite amusing really.

I think this poll is promising. 30 years ago probably a slight majority would have voted "no, the city is already too manhattanized"

dimondpark May 27, 2006 6:16 AM

Framing debate on new towers for S.F. skyline
John King, Chronicle Urban Design Writer

Saturday, May 27, 2006



Let's get one thing straight: San Francisco doesn't need another extra-tall tower, or three. Eye-popping skyscrapers won't make the natural setting more scenic or neighborhoods like North Beach more vibrant.

But as planners explore the idea of a 1,000-foot-plus tower near First and Mission streets, remember that tall buildings aren't un-San Franciscan, either. And if they make sense anywhere downtown, this is the place.

Those two points should frame the public debate about allowing three towers taller than the Transamerica Pyramid as part of the effort to fund a new Transbay Terminal for buses and trains from outside San Francisco. This is an opportunity to create great architecture -- but the towers need to be judged on the merits of whether they also serve the greater good.


The fact that skyline-transforming landmarks are being discussed shows another thing: The terrorists who flew planes into the World Trade Center didn't change the financial and psychological allure of tall buildings.

That wasn't supposed to be the case after Sept. 11, 2001 and the grim sight of 110-story structures dissolving in flames. Pundits somberly equated towers with targets, especially ones that rose above the crowd. One particularly exuberant Cassandra, author James Kunstler, proclaimed that "the age of skyscrapers is at an end. ... It must now be considered an experimental building typology that has failed."

Instead, cities across the globe are more open to height than ever before. In London, best known for its historic neighborhoods, a 1,004-foot-high tower next to London Bridge is expected to start construction next year. In Chicago -- never shy about scraping the sky -- a 2,000-foot corkscrew-shaped residential tower was approved last month that, if built, will be 600 feet taller than Sears Tower, the world's tallest building from 1974 until 1996.

Even smaller cities such as Sacramento and Louisville, Ky., are getting in the game. Often the landmarks-to-be are designed by well-known architects; in Sacramento, one is the work of Daniel Libeskind -- best known for crafting a master plan to rebuild the World Trade Center site.

The upward push is fueled by everything from the fading immediacy of Sept. 11 to the argument that dense downtown development might slow suburban sprawl. There's also the urge to show off -- for developers to act like big shots (see: Donald Trump) or cities to beckon for attention on the global stage.

There was a hint of this when San Francisco Planning Director Dean Macris made his first public presentation Thursday of the idea of raising heights in the area around First and Mission streets.

The plan would allow three towers above 850 feet, one of which would climb an additional 150 feet -- or more -- above the two others. Macris and other officials said the extra height could generate roughly $250 million in additional revenues to help build a new Transbay Terminal and extend commuter rail lines from the peninsula to the financial district.

But Macris also said bold new towers might freshen San Francisco's image.

"Cities are in a competitive global arrangement these days," Macris said on Friday. "We count enormously on our cable cars and our topography and all of that, but we are in fact a city. And the buildings in a city make an enormous difference to where people go and what they see and do. ... We have not paid a lot of attention to the drama of our skyline."

But drama cannot be the goal as planning evolves around First and Mission streets.

The most important factor in evaluating plans for a taller skyline is whether the result will improve how San Francisco looks and feels -- on the ground as well as in the air. There should be public spaces that offer respite from the downtown swirl and design guidelines so that the towers are lean and elegant and don't block important views.

The last thing we need are refrigerator boxes similar to what's on Market Street -- but 500 feet taller.

Seismic safety is critical as well: Would any sites pose engineering dangers? Modern skyscrapers often are the best buildings to be in during an earthquake because they're attached to the ground and designed with overlapping webs of protection. But there's no room for error.

Finally, the public benefits must be clear. There needs to be a trade-off for letting certain towers (and developers) stand out above the rest.

That's what is intriguing about the still-sketchy plan. New towers would help the Transbay project, which is behind schedule. And the show-offs wouldn't be high-rise intruders in a low-rise nook: They'd be at the junction of the traditional Financial District and the approved residential towers of Rincon Hill to the south.

In other words, there's a legitimate case to be made for raising heights near the terminal, especially after seismic and safety issues are reviewed.

But it's not essential to San Francisco's self-image, much less its global reputation, that such a change occur. This is a city that always has been measured by its visceral appeal rather than the way it thrusts into the sky.

If planners are serious about reshaping the skyline, do it to create a better city -- not to sell postcards or to thrill the erector set.

tech12 May 27, 2006 7:22 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JMGarcia
...aaahh Manhattan. The center of all things evil and certainly not be emulated. ;) But SF too Manhattanized already? Not even close. I scoff... ;)

Ha ha, I wish it was too "Manhattanized.":(

I'm a whore for Manhattanization.:whip:

R@ptor May 27, 2006 11:30 AM

This is exactly what SF needs...a new landmark tower. With the exception of the TransAm Pyramid it currently doesn't have anything that stands out.

kznyc2k May 27, 2006 3:52 PM

^And even then, the TransAm tower doesn't seem to be at the right scale compared to the rest of the skyline, like it's a 3/4ths model next to all those bland, blunt boxes (try saying that 10x fast!).

Something needs to forcefully break out of that midtown Manhattan-like plateau. (uh oh, there's that word Manhattan again..)

wanderer34 May 27, 2006 6:34 PM

SF has the money, the capital, and the innovation to complete this type of project of such a big magnitude. I just wish Philly would at least break the 1000' barrier with the currently constructing Comcast Center.

plinko May 27, 2006 6:56 PM

^This thread isn't about that building, how many times are we going to have to see the same rant? Get over it!

Regardless...this is going to to be fun project to watch develop...

One of the largest arguments against towers in SF are related to shadows, but the interesting thing is that since this is in SoMa, the shadows cast are going to be over only office buildings most of the time. Shouldn't effect too many residences. Does San Francisco have a 'solar ordinance' that cuts down building height relative to what's allowed by zoning?

Can't wait to see the renderings from Twin Peaks and hills to the north saying things like: 'It blocks my view of the Oakland Hills!' Remember the Rincon Hill masterplan and the bullshit renderings the NIMBY's produced? (had towers shown probably 1.5 times the height they actually were proposed to be).

Is there a map yet of which blocks this will be on?

J Church May 27, 2006 7:02 PM

^ There's a map in the original post, Plinko.

FourOneFive May 27, 2006 7:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by plinko
^This thread isn't about that building, how many times are we going to have to see the same rant? Get over it!

Regardless...this is going to to be fun project to watch develop...

One of the largest arguments against towers in SF are related to shadows, but the interesting thing is that since this is in SoMa, the shadows cast are going to be over only office buildings most of the time. Shouldn't effect too many residences. Does San Francisco have a 'solar ordinance' that cuts down building height relative to what's allowed by zoning?

Can't wait to see the renderings from Twin Peaks and hills to the north saying things like: 'It blocks my view of the Oakland Hills!' Remember the Rincon Hill masterplan and the bullshit renderings the NIMBY's produced? (had towers shown probably 1.5 times the height they actually were proposed to be).

Is there a map yet of which blocks this will be on?

the map of which blocks these towers will be on is at the top of this page.

As for shadows, san francisco does have prop k from 1984 which outlaws buildings from shadowing open spaces owned by the san francisco park and rec. the only open spaces that could possibly be affected are the parks lining the embarcadero (i.e. justin herman plaza). interestingly, 301 mission's EIR showed that it would shade these same parks at certain times during the year, but the planning commission and board of supervisors still approved the tower anyway.

although these towers would exceed the existing height and bulk limits, it appears as if new codes would be adopted that would allow these towers.

Fabb May 27, 2006 7:30 PM

This is all great news for San Francisco, but I'm surprised that nobody commented that :

Quote:

Closer to home, an Oakland developer has proposed a tower at 19th and Broadway that would be nearly as tall as the Transamerica Pyramid.

J Church May 27, 2006 8:07 PM

We've discussed it in the Califorum. I think the thing is that no one actually believes the tallest version of that building will be built. But if anyone wants to know more:

http://www.sfcityscape.com/log_06_04-06.html#0422

Fabb May 27, 2006 8:40 PM

Thanks.
The San Francisco Bay Towers may be the answer to the Oakland proposal. Even though it's unlikely to be built, I suspect a competition in the Bay Area. That's always a good thing.

Dream'n May 27, 2006 8:49 PM

San Francisco is a beautiful city and I see no reason the skyline shouldn't expand and become taller. I'm all for it.

TheOldMan May 27, 2006 8:57 PM

i would also like to see it happen. i agree that the TransAmerica Pyramid is too short. goddamn NIMBYs reduced its original height because they felt it would block their views of the Bay Bridge-what assholes. I am all for this proposal.

MrMetropolitan May 27, 2006 9:14 PM

More housing for people is more important than people's veiws being blocked. It is very selfish of people to only care about their precious views. If it's good for the city as a whole, that's the most important thing.

tech12 May 27, 2006 11:28 PM

^^Word...people need to grow up. (no pun intended:frog: )

Looking at some people's reactions in the chronicle really pissed me off today. One guy claimed they would block views (poor you) and cause traffic (It's a TRANSIT terminal...and in any case, it's far away, in downtown), and that lots of skyscrapers was the reason he moved away from New York (well shit, maybe he should've relocated to a small town instead of another large CITY).

Then some lady stated matter of factly that the towers WOULD, in fact, fall down in an earthquake...

People are stupid. But hopefully the city has too much going for it to let this project pass.

TheOldMan May 27, 2006 11:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by tech12
Then some lady stated matter of factly that the towers WOULD, in fact, fall down in an earthquake...

People are stupid. But hopefully the city has too much going for it to let this project pass.


This Lady, for living in San Fran, obviously doesnt know shit about earthquakes and building in seismicly active areas. For instance, Taipei 101 is built in an area which is capable of much more powerful earthquakes than anything the San Andreas fault is capable of producing, yet it has been built to withstand a 9.5 magnitude earthquake. large skyscrapers are actually more stable than midrise and low rise buildings in an earthquake (assuming their builders and design engineers know what they are doing). Stupid lady. she needs move out of the city if earthquakes are her concern.

KevinFromTexas May 27, 2006 11:59 PM

Something taller than the pyramid? It better be good...

Wheelingman04 May 28, 2006 12:17 AM

This is just what San Francisco needs to do to put its skyline to another level.

WonderlandPark May 28, 2006 12:21 AM

OldMan has it right, midrises in the Warner Center suffered the most damage in the Northridge quake but the tallest of the Warner Center towers were o.k. and accounting for distance, taller buildings fared better in Glendale and Burbank than the 10-20 story ones. 10-20 stories has somthing to do with the shaking and wave periods that makes them more vulnerable.

And Taipei 101 is built to extreme standards, I thought it was 8.5 but maybe it is 9.5. But a 9.5 is seriously extreme and rare. Shaking for 10 minutes (Sumatra was magnitude 9.15 and had 9 minutes of shaking). I would be suprised if anything can be designed to 9.5 standards. I think Tokyo scrapers are designed to an 8.5 standard (like L.A. and S.F.)

plinko May 28, 2006 4:09 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by J Church
^ There's a map in the original post, Plinko.

Amazingly observant aren't I??? :koko:

Are there any existing buildings in SF with a tuned mass damper? These may be the first?

sf_eddo May 31, 2006 7:36 AM

Thougt I'd throw in some visuals:

Below is a google maps visual of the planned Transbay Redevelopment Area.

The Transbay Center (1000+ ft) is the big grey box in the middle with the bus lines running to and from it. First and Mission (850+ ft) has a marker on it, and I believe the Howard & 1st parcel is the parking lot above the word 'Tehama' near First. (FYI - 301 Mission (Millennium) is at the corner of Fremont and Mission, right where the 't' in "50 Fremont Center" is, 300 Spear (Infinity) is at Spear/Folsom/Main, One Rincon Hill is at at the bottom of the picture at 1st & Harrison)

http://static.flickr.com/67/153272725_572ecc3fae_o.jpg

We've seen the Transbay Terminal before, so it wasn't really exciting to capture the parcel, but here are what I believe are the two 850+ ft. towers that are being discussed.

The first one is at the Northwest corner of 1st and Mission, and its footprint will extend to the parking lot. This is the view from Local Live looking East, I believe. The white lowrise building is the one being talked about, and the adjacent abandoned parking lot above it (which by the way smells offensively like human feces everytime the sun comes out).

http://static.flickr.com/37/157038613_2d791dfe8d_o.jpg

The Howard/1st parcel, I think is this one. I cannot see where else they would be able to easily build, unless they are tearing down the building. My opinion is, if the parking lot goes, I'm for it, whatever it is! This is the view from Local Live looking south. From memory, I believe the building in the lower right corner is part of the Foundry Square complex, and is also the corporate headquarters of Gymboree.

http://static.flickr.com/69/157038612_eeac4de9d6_o.jpg

Hope this sheds light for those who had difficulty imagining the actual sites on the city grid.

J Church Jun 5, 2006 4:55 PM

Famed architect in line to design new S.F. tower
San Francisco Business Times - June 2, 2006
by J.K. Dineen and Emily Fancher

Superstar architect Renzo Piano has tentatively agreed to design an 850-foot tower at First and Mission streets, a significant coup for city planners as they build support for a denser, taller neighborhood around the Transbay Terminal.

The building would be constructed on a development site that has been quietly assembled by David Choo, the president of commercial mortgage lender California Mortgage and Realty. In the past three months, Choo's company has paid about $50 million for three buildings on the northwest corner of Mission and First streets.

Supervisor Chris Daly, whose district includes the site, raised the possibility of Piano's involvement at Transbay Joint Powers Authority meeting Friday morning. He later told the San Francisco Business Times that he had met Thursday with Choo and Planning Director Dean Macris to discuss the project. Other sources confirmed that Piano had agreed to design a building for the site, but that no contract had been signed. Daly said he does not have a problem with great height and density, but that negative impacts need to be offset. In Rincon Hill, Daly convinced developers to pay fees to support affordable housing and community groups.

"I'm interested in ensuring an open process and that the public has ample opportunity to participate," Daly said.

If Piano signs on, it could be the first glamorous project in what city officials hope will be a new era of architectural distinction. Several months ago, Planning Director Dean Macris and Mayor Gavin Newsom announced an initiative to encourage more modern, innovative, high-quality design in San Francisco. Macris said Piano and Choo are in conversation, and expressed his admiration for the architect.

"The idea that we would have an opportunity for one of the world's leading architects to do a building at this location is great," said Macris. "We're looking forward to that possibility."

A global heavyweight

Piano, who designed the rebuild of the California Academy of Sciences now under way in Golden Gate Park, is known as an international superstar. He's behind the expansion of both the Whitney in New York and the High Museum in Atlanta and has public and private projects around the world in Sydney, Tokyo and Paris, but recent American commissions have made him a familiar and golden name in the United States.

"He's certainly one of a very short list of preeminent architects in the world that have a significant body of work," said David Meckel, director research and planning and former dean of architecture at California College of the Arts. "He's done a lot of buildings, and almost every one of those buildings responds to place. No two look alike."

Meckel said Piano's work is rooted in the geography, climate and culture of a place.

"This is a very important project in heart of San Francisco that should be matched in importance with the talent chosen to design it," he added.
Plan approved

The news of Piano's interest in the First and Mission site comes as the Transbay Joint Powers Authority board Friday agreed to a plan to build a trio of soaring towers that would help fund a new Transbay Terminal as well as a funding and phasing plan for the transit hub. After 30 years of planning -- and political wrangling -- over rebuilding the worn-out bus terminal, the approval was a historic moment.

"We've taken a significant step forward," said Nathaniel Ford, chair of the TJPA. "I see this as one of the most important projects in the country."

The Transbay Joint Powers Authority's approval creates a two-step process to build a terminal that connects BART, Muni and regional bus services, as well as extend Caltrain from Fourth and King Streets, and could eventually bring in high-speed rail to Los Angeles.

The TJPA also endorsed increasing some building heights in the 40-acre redevelopment area, embracing a vision for a 1,000-foot tower next to the terminal and two 800-foot skyscrapers nearby, including the Piano tower. The new heights will also need environmental review and approval by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. The zoning changes could bring as much as $250 million in new funding to the terminal project.

The approval also kicks off an international competition to choose an architect and development team to design the 1,000-foot tower and the terminal -- sure to attract high-caliber big-name architects on par with Piano. Construction on the terminal could begin as early as 2010 and wrap up in 2013, said Emilio Cruz, the program manager for the TJPA.

A new player

In assembling the four parcels, the relatively low-profile California Mortgage and Realty becomes a central player in the long Transbay Terminal debate, one that is sure to heat up in the coming months.

In the last three months, the company has bought 76-80 First St., and 88 First St., and 50 First St., an acquisition that closed in late May for $26 million. In 2004, Choo bought 62 First St. for $10 million and moved his company headquarters there from Oakland.

In an interview on Tuesday, company CEO James Gala said that real estate investment was an "adjunct" part of the company's core business of arranging short-term commercial real estate loans funded by the lending capital of the company and its private investment clients.

Gala declined to elaborate on plans for the parcels.

"We're good investors, it is a stretch to refer to us as developers," Gala said. "We have real estate investment activities."

Gala said the decision to buy the properties was driven by "location, opportunity, and timing" and that the firm has developed a sharp eye for value through its lending practice. With office rents rising and approximately 3 million square feet of commercial space being converted into residential condos, he said the company was bullish on office development.

"There is no plan, there are many ideas being presented," he said. "The discourse has begun and it's very, very early in the process."

Gala said the Macris' vision of a neighborhood anchored by slender skyscraper, similar to the Rincon Hill plan, is "one of several ideas that have been discussed." He declined to say whether CMR have been involved in the new Transbay planning process, but said, "because of his stature, we listen intently when Dean speaks."

bayrider Jun 5, 2006 6:02 PM

Renzo Piano?? Wow!! SF is on the verge of having a classic. I can't wait to see the design.

Fabb Jun 5, 2006 9:09 PM

Quote:

The TJPA also endorsed increasing some building heights in the 40-acre redevelopment area, embracing a vision for a 1,000-foot tower next to the terminal and two 800-foot skyscrapers nearby, including the Piano tower.
So, Piano's tower is one of the lower buildings. He's good enough to be in charge of the tall one too.

CGII Jun 5, 2006 10:57 PM

I'm afraid of being called a nimby, especially in a city that isn't mine, but these buildings better be flawlessly executed. Anything taller than the pyramid with that doesn't have a top notch design will probably look ridiculous on the SF skyline. This is a fantastic project for the city and it has the potential to be one of, if not the, greatest architectural triumph in the city. Piano was a great choice.

TheOldMan Jun 5, 2006 11:22 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by KevinFromTexas
Something taller than the pyramid? It better be good...

Yeah, i second (or third if you will ^^^) that. like the Chrysler building is to the Empire State Building. I am definatly all for it assuming it is very well done. with Piano in the mix,however, the outlook is good.

WonderlandPark Jun 6, 2006 1:52 AM

Foster for the 1000 footer would be nice :)

J Church Jun 6, 2006 3:15 AM

Oh, I think we're all hoping they don't blow this opportunity by offering up anything less than stellar. It's not so much the architects I'm worried about however as the citizenry of San Francisco, who are notorious for their conservative taste in architecture.

BTW, there's a design competition for both the terminal and the 1,000' tower, which will be attached to it. It's just getting underway. Don't know yet if Piano (or anyone, for that matter) will be part of it. But large train station + largest tower in a fairly large city, it doesn't get a whole lot more high-profile, so we're hoping to attract a few famous names.

Chase Unperson Jun 6, 2006 4:37 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by J Church

BTW, there's a design competition for both the terminal and the 1,000' tower, which will be attached to it. It's just getting underway. Don't know yet if Piano (or anyone, for that matter) will be part of it. But large train station + largest tower in a fairly large city, it doesn't get a whole lot more high-profile, so we're hoping to attract a few famous names.


Wouldn't it also be even more cool to get a local SF architect to propose a groundbreaking never before conceptualized building rather than another starchitect?

J Church Jun 6, 2006 4:45 AM

I don't care where they come from as long as we get a looker of a tower. Any outsider will have to partner with locals anyway.

BANKofMANHATTAN Jun 6, 2006 3:49 PM

That's great for SF!

I'd like to see one of them w/ a spire - not just a pole, mind you - moreso a tapering top deal like 2 Prudential or The Battlehouse Tower in AL.

It would be a nice contrast to all the boxesque towers. :)

rgolch Jun 6, 2006 6:28 PM

That's awesome for SF! They will have to be stunning to be deserving of SF.

Sorry, I didn't read all the posts. Are these towers residential, or office?

J Church Jun 6, 2006 8:58 PM

Tallest tower would be office, condos and a hotel, don't know yet about the other two. But given the location (edge of the FiDi), the fact that everything else planned around there is residential, and the fact that the office market is just now entering an up cycle--probably office.

plinko Jun 8, 2006 3:20 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by J Church
I don't care where they come from as long as we get a looker of a tower. Any outsider will have to partner with locals anyway.

Can I throw my hat into the ring? I'm licensed!! :banana:

Quick massing model showing the heights...

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v2...RANSBAY-SM.jpg

J Church Jun 9, 2006 12:56 AM

I think they're just a bit high, Mike--going from the mechanical level of 50 Fremont at ~200', I'd say you've made the thousand-footer 1100' or so.

Still: awesome. I can't wait. I have to admit that ever since these were announced, whenever I'm at a vantage point where I think they might be visible, I take a few seconds to try to visualize them.

A vantage point like, say, my roof:

http://sfcityscape.com/forum/transba...ender_1000.jpg

sentinel Jun 9, 2006 5:30 AM

I think these towers will be quite awesome when fully realized.
I just love San Francisco, such an amazing place, and your mayor is so dreamy, but why oh why is he dating a scientologist?!?!?!
:P

J Church Jun 9, 2006 5:52 AM

He's not any more, thank Xenu.

munkyman Jun 9, 2006 6:28 AM

You know J Church, while his rendering is definitely taller than a 1000 feet, I think the TJPA said the building could possibly end up being the tallest in the west...so who knows? It conceivably could be 1,100 feet tall (I never thought I'd even say that about SF). Of course, it depends on the (lengthy) public discussions that are sure to follow in the near future.

Still, the very thought that someone is even discussing something like this in SF...it's exciting to think what a dynamic place the Transbay area could become in a decade or so. I just hope they can make these towers truly jaw dropping, and that the people of our city actually let them do it.

LostInTheZone Jun 9, 2006 4:13 PM

I think the heights fit in great with the skyline, thanks for the massing studies plinko & J Church. San Franciscans are right to preserve the lowrise character of their city, but in an area already full of skyscrapers, there's nothing to worry about.

however, I'm with CGII. Transamerica sets a high standard to live up to. I'd be worried about Renzo Piano. You run a pretty high risk of getting an esoteric monument that architects love and regular people scratch their heads at. In the very least, you're guaranteed to get something that tries desperately to be understated, not dramatic.

Has Piano designed any large skyscrapers other than the NY Times building? Cause if that's the precedent, SF should be worried. I think that building is turning into a pretty big letdown.

J Church Jun 9, 2006 4:34 PM

Shard London (Bridge), Aurora Place in Sydney. Anyway I disagree; I find Piano to be more populist than other starchitects.

munkyman, it could be a bit over 1000' but I doubt it'll go much higher. 1019' would be the tallest in the West.

canucklehead2 Jun 9, 2006 5:16 PM

I'm still hoping that some crazy developer will finally realize the 138 floor highrise from The Towering Inferno. Market St @ 3rd I believe was the site in the movie, lol..

BTinSF Jun 12, 2006 12:00 AM

In spite of the carping from unreconstructed flower children and others, I think these buildings can get built. That's because the current crop of city politicians, generally an anti-development crowd, seem to want the new TransBay Terminal very badly--and they need the money developers will pay for a site for very tall buildings to pay for the terminal. They want it enough even to make the terminally short-sighted Sup. Chris Daly, another Eastern tranplant, specifically say he had nothing against tall buildings (really!!, I kid you not!).

What I can't figure out it WHY they want it so badly. The city center is slowly shifting south--toward the present CalTrain terminal, which already has excellent transportation links to the newish N-Judah/Third St subway line extention and, eventually (let us pray!) the cross-town subway. So why they want to spend billions (I think the latest estimate is something like $4 billion) to move CalTrain and, if it ever gets built, the high-speed link to LA, 6 or 7 blocks north, I don't know.

But if it results in a 1000' tower on Mission St, I'm for it! And I believe the version I read said "at least 1000 ft". Given the competition with LA and Seattle, if they go that high I bet they'll put on a spire or something to make it tallest in the west.

By the way, the opening post in this thread said no architects had been selected for the buildings, but it's looking very likely that Renzo Piano will do one of the 850 footers (the one at First and Mission, diagonally across the intersection from the thousand footer).

Incidentally, does anyone know if the site for the Piano building includes the empty lot formerly used by Golden Gate U. that was scheduled at one point to be a Sofitel? Or it is only the corner and adjacent lots where there are presently older buildings of modest (aprrox 7 or 8 stories) height?


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