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Pier Pressure
San Francisco's cruise terminal finally setting sail
The triangular Pier 27 will soon replace neighboring Pier 35 as San Francisco's cruise terminal. The former occassionally accommodates ships but has no real facilities.
Courtesy Port of San Francisco

Yesterday, San Francisco’s Port Commission approved the joint venture of KMD Architects and Pfau Long Architecture to redesign Pier 27 at the base of Telegraph Hill. The 178,000-square-foot pier and shed will eventually be converted into a new cruise terminal and public plaza. The Department of Public Works selected the team in late September, pending the Port’s sign-off.

“We were looking for a high quality iconic building along the waterfront that could also be a cost-effective cruise operation,” said John Doll, cruise terminal project manager at the Port.

Estimates for the redevelopment range between $60 and $85 million. The Port Commission is expected to pay for the project with the $19.3 million earned from land it sold to the Watermark condo developers at the site. It also will likely issue revenue bonds to cover the remaining cost.

While the city has been using Pier 35 for years as a cruise terminal, it is run down, too short for modern cruise ships, and too costly to renovate. “Why continue to pour money into Pier 35 when we should be investing in a new cruise terminal?” Doll said. Construction is expected to start in early 2012, and the terminal to open in time for the cruise season in April 2014.

The cruise ship terminal has been through a range of failed development plans over the last ten years. Three years ago, Australi’s Lend Lease defaulted on a $400 million proposal to erect a cruise terminal and office project. Shopping mall developer Mills took over the site, but eventually scrapped plans last year to build a mall after running into a buzzsaw of neighborhood opposition. Last year, Shorenstein Properties mothballed plans to develop an office complex, prompting the port commission to take the project public.

So far no designs have been presented for the project, as competing firms were only required to present qualifications for the job. Although the Port Commission earmarked $3.5 million in June to spend on design and architecture plans, the money will be split between the architects and the city’s Bureau of Architecture.

“We want to create a vision for the city that reflects the values of San Francisco and the Bay Area, and how it serves as a portal to the world,” said David Hobstetter, a principal at KMD Architects.

KMD had a leg up on competing architecture firms, which included Perkins + Will and Skidmore Owings Merrill. For the last nine years, KMD has been working with the city to design the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission headquarters near city hall. The firm also has extensive experience with transportation projects, including a railroad station at the Anchorage airport, and the Tom Bradley Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport. Pfau Long has a strong local presence in San Francisco and its most recent project is the new Spur Urban Center.

Kristina Shevory