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Old Posted Oct 26, 2006, 4:46 PM
BTinSF BTinSF is offline
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: San Francisco & Tucson
Posts: 24,088
I don't like the "an" even taller tower here, but later he says three. competition begins tomorrow:

Transbay authority to entertain design ideas for new transit tower
- John King, Chronicle Urban Design Writer
Thursday, October 26, 2006

Thirty-five years after the Transamerica Pyramid seemed to top off San Francisco's skyline once and for all, a new international competition could lead to construction of an even-taller tower near Market Street.

The competition would be managed by the Transbay Joint Powers Authority, a government body working to build a transit hub near First and Mission streets to serve buses and commuter trains. It would seek a development team to build the new center -- and also an adjacent tower that "is expected to be an iconic presence that will redefine the city's skyline" and help pay for the transit project.

On Friday, the Transbay board is expected to vote to proceed with the competition.

"A lot of the comments we've heard from the public is that they want a world-class station and a world-class transit tower," said Maria Ayerdi, executive director of the authority. "Design quality is paramount."

The idea to push beyond the once-controversial Transamerica Pyramid and its 853-foot peak gained momentum in May, when city planning officials suggested zoning changes to allow three skyscrapers in the Transbay area that would generate revenue for the project.

Any changes require extensive environmental studies; however, the Transbay authority can move forward on its own site and leave the tower details for later.

In the first round, where teams present their qualifications, the track record of each developer counts for less than the impression made by each team's architect, who must show a "flexible and imaginative attitude" as well as commit to "personal involvement throughout the life of the project."

The seven-member jury includes Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Robert Campbell of the Boston Globe, as well as three other architects and experts in transportation, engineering and real estate financing.

During the final round, when competitors submit their proposed projects, economics are more important: The rules say the main focus of judging will be "the overall financial feasibility" of the competing proposals.

Ayerdi said other factors will be evaluated beside finances and architectural flash.

"This has to be a world-class facility for the city and Bay Area to be proud of. And we don't mean how it looks, but how it operates," Ayerdi said. "The public has to feel welcome."

In other words, the terminal must be easy to use.

If the authority board approves the program on Friday, the competition would begin next week, with finalists selected in February and a decision on the development team coming in August.

The estimated cost for the overall project, which includes a below-ground rail extension from the Caltrain station on Fourth Street, is $3.4 billion. The target date to begin construction is 2010.

First and Mission isn't the only location in San Francisco where a new competition could change the look of a neighborhood.

A smaller competition began last week at Octavia Boulevard, where four sites along the distinctive thoroughfare that opened last year are being offered to teams that can deliver "excellence and innovation in urban infill and architectural design."

The five-block stretch from Market Street north to Hayes Street was covered for decades by two levels of ramps connecting Interstate 80 to the western side of San Francisco. After the system was damaged by the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, freeway opponents campaigned successfully to replace the ramps with a surface boulevard that separates local traffic from commuter lanes.

Of 12 parcels along the boulevard left empty when the freeway came down, four are now for sale. They include two 18-foot-wide slivers along Octavia between Fell and Oak streets, a block where ramps once touched ground, and a long site at the corner of Market and Octavia.

Those sites also were the subject of a 2005 competition held by the private San Francisco Prize. That contest attracted 167 entries and favored contemporary designs with an emphasis on environmentally friendly features. At the time, though, the land was not available for sale.

"The reason for doing this is to follow through on the design competition," said Rich Hillis of the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development. "We're putting our money where our mouth is."

The city's target is to select developers for the four sites by the end of January.

E-mail John King at

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