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Old Posted Feb 8, 2008, 5:26 PM
BTinSF BTinSF is offline
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: San Francisco & Tucson
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Friday, February 8, 2008
Giants lead in fight for premier port site
San Francisco Business Times - by J.K. Dineen

The San Francisco Giants and as many as four other contenders are putting final touches on preliminary development proposals for Seawall Lot 337, the port-owned 13.6-acre parking lot across from AT&T Park.

Other developers bidding on the job include Kenwood Investments, Federal Development and Build Inc. Apartment builder Archstone Smith has also attended pre-development meetings at the port and indicated that they may jump in to the proposal.

The proposal deadline is Feb. 14.

Thus far the development teams have been quiet, with the exception of the Giants, who have partnered with Baltimore-based Cordish, a firm that has carved out a niche for creating downtown mixed-use districts around sporting and entertainment venues.

While the concept is in the early stages, the Giants-Cordish proposal will likely include a 4,000- or 5,000-seat theater, which could provide a home for Cirque Du Soleil, which currently sets up its tents on the site every other year. While the package may include housing, its biggest inspiration is Chicago's 25-acre, $500 million Millennium Park, said Larry Baer, chief operating officer for the Giants. Millennium Park has a skating rink, a theater for music and dance, and the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, a band shell designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry with 4,000 fixed seats plus lawn seating for 7,000.

"There are museums, music venues, tastefully done retail and a lot of open space," said Baer. "That is the kind of sensibility we want to bring to it."

At the northeast corner of Mission Bay, Seawall Lot 337 is among San Francisco's most valuable developable sites, and is a central part of the port's plan to generate income desperately needed to repair its crumbling piers. The Port of San Francisco has $1.2 billion in capital needs, but only $400 million of this is funded, according to its 10-year capital plan. The port has had remarkably little success in developing property in recent years, as attempts to redevelop Piers 30-32 and Piers 27-31 have been stymied by political opposition and high construction costs.

But the port is hoping Seawall Lot 337 will be a different story. Working with neighborhood groups and State Sen. Carol Migden, the legislature in October passed Senate Bill 815, which gave the port more control over waterfront development on four so-called "seawall" parcels, the biggest of which is 337.

Under the seawall lot plan, a developer would sign a 75-year ground lease, with annual payments for the property likely to start at as high as $15 million.

Port planner Diane Oshima said development proposals will be presented to the Port Commission on Feb. 26, and a major public workshop will follow on Saturday, March 1.

Final proposals will be handed in in June, and a developer will be selected in August or early September.

Baer said the Giants' plan would be a "balanced project" that will have "some attractions the neighborhood doesn't currently have."

"Whether its a permanent Cirque show or something else, there is going to be a concept like Cirque Du Soleil," he said.

A number of developers that looked at the project dropped out after learning that the Giants would be teaming up with Cordish and Farallon Capital Management to make a bid. Farallon also owns the lot across the street, Mission Bay's Parcel 1, which is zoned for a hotel. Industry sources said the team has been talking to a number of hotel developers about building a hotel as part of the Seawall Lot 337 development.

"A lot of people figured the Giants have a lock on it, so it wasn't worth the effort," said one architect who looked at the property with a client.

Build Inc., which is now developing the 140-unit Esprit Park, is partnering with Dan Murphy, a principal with Urban Green Development. Build Principal Lou Vasquez said his group was still "playing with site plans and running pro formas to make the site best work to our advantage." He said the plan would include both housing and some commercial uses, and that they are looking at putting artists lofts and galleries in Pier 47. He said any Build proposal would "consider the Giants parking needs." / (415) 288-4971
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