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05.27.2011
Prime Site in San Francisco
Forest City takes on major waterfront redevelopment project.
The 25-acre site was formerly a shipbuilding facility.
Courtesy Port of San Francisco

San Francisco’s Pier 70, with its surplus of majestic but crumbling brick warehouses near downtown, has been a tough redevelopment nut to crack. But there’s been a major breakthrough. Last month, the Port of San Francisco announced it had selected developer Forest City Enterprises to undertake new construction at the former shipbuilding site. The 25-acre parcel will get 2.5 million square feet of new office space, and four historic buildings will be restored.

“It’s a really extraordinary site but also an incredibly difficult site,” said Gabriel Metcalf, executive director of SPUR, an urban think-tank in the city. “It’s very exciting to have a serious proposal, developer, and process moving forward on this one,” he added.

Beating out three other teams, the California subsidiary of Cleveland-based Forest City enlisted the support of AECOM, Architectural Resources Group, and Evan Rose, an urban designer formerly with SMWM. In San Francisco, Forest City has been the driver behind the recently completed Presidio Landmark apartments and downtown’s Westfield shopping center.

Forest City is expected to present a formal proposal at the start of next year. Meanwhile, as part of the RFQ process, the company offered a vision of an “innovation cluster that combines high-quality office space with diverse and inspiring public amenities for the broader San Francisco community,” which would attract high-tech companies, machine shops, and artist studios according to the port’s summary. Warehouse space in the city’s South of Market area currently commands higher rents than traditional offices downtown lending credence to the belief that the pier’s renovated warehouses will be attractive to young companies.

Next month the port will release a separate Request for Interest (RFI) for the adjacent area, the historical renovation portion of the pier. “At this point, we really want to hear from users and developers about what they’d like to do and creative ways to market the buildings,” said Kathleen Diohep, the port’s project manager for Pier 70. The port is also in negotiations with AECOM to design a seven-acre park on the northern edge of the site. The entitlement process is anticipated to take the next two years, with construction beginning in 2014.

Lydia Lee