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04.02.2014
All Grown Up
Foster the latest big name to design major project in San Francisco's Transbay Area.
Transbay Redevelopment Area.
Courtesy Office of Community Investment & Infrastructure

San Francisco's Transbay district, radiating around the upcoming Transbay Transit Center, is experiencing an influx of projects by globally renowned designers. In February developer Tishman Speyer announced that it was hiring Chicago architect Jeanne Gang to design a tower near the Transbay Center, itself being designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli. Then last month Related California announced that it was taking on OMA to design a tower as part of a mixed-use development on First and Fremont with Fougeron Architects. Now TMG Partners has announced that Foster and Partners, along with Heller Manus, will be designing a 2 million square foot, mixed use project at First and Mission Streets.

The development, located on an L-shaped site, will include 605-foot and 850-foot towers, containing 1.35 million square feet of office and commercial space and about 650,000 square feet of residential space. The distribution of program within each tower is still in flux, said TMG Partners president and CEO Michael Covarrubias. Extra large office floor plates and open layouts will encourage flexibility and interaction. Schematic designs should be available to present to both the city and the public by this summer, he said.

Conceptual rendering of the development's "urban room."
Courtesy TMG
 

Closer to ground level the team plans to redevelop three historic buildings, ranging in height from three to eight stories, pointed out Heller Manus President Jeffrey Heller. At the base of the towers the firms will create an "urban room" with pathways through the site to the rest of the city. “The point where the towers touch the ground is as important as their presence on the skyline,” said Norman Foster in a statement. “The ground plane is laced with small alleys,” added Heller.

All of these projects fall into the scope of the 2006 Transbay Redevelopment Plan, guiding the transformation of a once-blighted 40-acre swath south of the city’s financial district into a center for high-density, transit-oriented development. Funded by tax increment financing, it oversees the implementation of local infrastructure, the building of the Transbay Terminal, the development of vacant, publicly owned parcels, and the addition of affordable housing throughout. Height limits in the area were raised from 600 feet to over 1,000. "To our surprise we had little pushback on those height changes," said former planning director Dean Macris, who describes height limits in the city as "a dramatic political event."

Unofficial rendering of OMA's development in the area.
Courtesy San Francisco Chronicle
 

Overall, said Mike Grisso, Senior Project Manager at the city’s Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, the area will contain 2.5 million square feet of new office space and 3,000 new housing units on publicly owned property, and millions more square feet of development on privately owned property. The area will also soon contain the highest concentration of architectural talent in the city.

“The city has for a long time had an issue with creative and memorable architecture, with some exceptions,” said TMG’s Covarrubias. “This is a trend that I think is appropriate for a big city.”

Heller attributes the changes to the influx of foreign investment (particularly from Asia), and the influx of tech companies into the city from Silicon Valley. “The city has changed forever. It’s becoming a more global, a more important place.”

Sam Lubell