San Francisco’s Planning Commission has approved a new 61-story, 800-foot-tall mixed-use tower at Transbay Center. Designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects for a group led by developer Hines, if approved and built as currently planned, it would be the city’s fourth-tallest building. Located at 542-550 Howard Street, the currently vacant site is known as Parcel F and sits across from the Transbay/Salesforce Transit Center and Salesforce Tower—both also designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli. Anticipated to be the last major high-rise in the Transbay district, the proposal incorporates a 189-room hotel, nearly 300,000 square feet of office space, and 165 market-rate condominium units. Additionally, Pelli Clarke Pelli’s design calls for just under 9,000 square feet of retail space and a 183-car below-grade garage with bike parking. The scheme also includes an elevated pedestrian bridge that would connect to the PWP Landscape Architecture-designed Salesforce Park atop the Transit Center. Like its taller neighbor, this latest glassy, 935,000-square-foot building is not without challenges and controversy. The development has already been through several rounds of refinement since the initial design reveal in 2016, with a reduction in the number of hotel rooms and residential units, as well as the size of the proposed commercial and retail uses. The office space is already fully leased to Salesforce. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the proposal has also faced challenges related to an annual citywide cap on new office space and has met with resistance from community groups in neighboring Chinatown, who are concerned about potential shadows cast over the popular Willie “Woo Woo” Wong Playground. Similarly, although 546 Howard Street’s developers would foot the bill for 337 units of off-site affordable housing, seen as vital in a city with dramatic and seemingly intractable housing shortages, as per the Chronicle, activists have expressed fears that these homes will not be affordable enough for area residents. Despite these setbacks, the San Francisco Planning Commission approved the project, and now 542-550 Howard Street’s final approval rests with San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors.
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California breaks ground on High Speed Rail system that will one day connect Sacramento with San Diego
It's not often that the eyes of the country are fixed on Fresno. But this week, after years of fights and dozens of lawsuits, California's $68 billion High Speed Rail system is finally breaking ground there. The system, funded largely by state and federal money (much of that is still pending), is expected to eventually extend 800 miles from Sacramento to San Diego and include 24 stations. A route from San Francisco to Los Angeles is expected by 2029. The first stretch of the electric bullet train initiative, between Fresno and Bakersfield, will be built by Dragados/Flatiron/Shimmick. Construction is beginning in the Central Valley, say officials from the California High Speed Rail Authority, to lower costs, speed construction, and get access to more federal funds. They noted that the plan will add a much-needed economic boost to the emerging area's long-struggling cities, like Fresno, Bakersfield, and Merced. The second phase of construction will connect the Central Valley to the San Fernando Valley, the third will connect the Central Valley to San Jose, the fourth will connect the San Fernando Valley with Los Angeles and Anaheim, and the fifth will complete the connection from Sacramento to San Diego. New stations are moving ahead, some faster than others. Anaheim just opened HOK and Buro Happold's ARTIC Station, Los Angeles is beginning radical changes to Union Station designed by Grimshaw and Gruen, and San Francisco is building perhaps the most ambitious of them all, Cesar Pelli's Transbay Center. Even Fresno is getting in on the act, hiring AECOM to study a station there. Besides needing billions more dollars, the High Speed Rail Authority still has to condemn thousands of acres of land before this all becomes reality.
Despite ongoing delays, lawsuits, and government holdups, it appears that California's High Speed Rail (HSR) plans (and their associated stations) are ready to move ahead. Last week the United States Department of Transportation issued a "Record of Decision" for HSR's initial 114-mile section from Fresno to Bakersfield. The decision, "represents a major step forward, both for the State of California and for High Performance rail in the U.S," Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said in a statement. On the state level California governor Jerry Brown earlier this month managed to secure $250 million for the project from the state's yearly cap-and-trade greenhouse gas emissions fund. That number could total $3 billion to $5 billion in coming years. The total amount of track built in the network will measure over 800 miles. But the estimated $68 billion project is still short of the federal funding it needs, and there are a number of significant obstacles left. According to the Contra Costa Times, a Sacramento judge has blocked, pending appeal, the $8.6 billion in state bond funds owed to the project. The state also owes the federal government $160 million in order to receive $3.5 billion in matching funds, and the U.S. House of Representatives has voted to block funds to the project as part of the federal transportation bill. Although that vote is anticipated to be overturned by the Democratic Senate. Still, California's HSR stations continue to move ahead, regardless of whether the tracks ever get built. Grimshaw and Gruen's plans to transform Union Station in Los Angeles just passed another benchmark, Pelli Clarke Pelli's San Francisco's Transbay Center is moving ahead as well, although perhaps without its signature rooftop park. And the furthest along is Anaheim's ETFE-topped ARTIC station, designed by HOK and Buro Happold. The multimodal facility combining bus, rail, high speed rail, shuttles, and more—is scheduled to be finished late this year. All of these stations will serve multiple transit functions, even if HSR never happens. But it sure would be a waste if that came to pass.
[beforeafter] [/beforeafter] The perforated aluminum skin would replace the previously proposed glass facade. (Courtesy TJPA) It looks like Pelli Clarke Pelli's Transbay Transit Center, which stretches about three blocks through the city's Rincon Hill neighborhood, might go ahead with its first major piece of value engineering. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the architects have suggested that the building's undulating glass skin become perforated aluminum. The move would meet federal safety guidelines and chop $17 million from the estimated $1.59 billion budget for the center's first phase. The Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) board will be asked to approve the change at its March 25 meeting. The structure is not expected to be complete before 2017. [beforeafter] [/beforeafter] "This is a dramatic change in material, but the philosophical change is not enormous," said Fred Clarke of the firm Pelli Clarke Pelli, who said the terminal would still feel light, not heavy. Chronicle critic John King warned that the move "could make the transit center less of a sinuous, snaking form—and more of a drab block—as it spans First and Fremont streets." On Pelli's side, Clarke argued that the wrapping would still be transparent. Of course he admitted: "Architects who do this kind of building must be very, very pragmatic."