New Development Projects Boost San Francisco's Northern Waterfront

The historic Fort Mason, along with several other development projects, has helped alter the landscape of the city’s northern waterfront, according to Jim Chappell, former head of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association.

September 17, 2014, 10:00 AM PDT

By melaniecj


While development in the aftermath of the Loma Prieta earthquake and the decimation of the double-decker Embarcadero Freeway have helped to transform San Francisco’s northern waterfront, work on the historic Fort Mason Center project has been slow going.

Jim Chappell, an architect and planner who led the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) for 15 years, describes several developments that are reshaping the area and discusses how the Fort Mason project is finally gaining ground.

“For years, it has all fallen apart when one hits Van Ness. But a brilliant new plan for the non-profit Fort Mason Center is about to change all that.”

The National Park Service owns the Fort Mason property. New development on the site includes the opening this week of the reconceived Pier 2, a 35,000-square foot, $21 million project, Chappell writes. This follows a $13 million pier substructure upgrade the park service completed.

The changes were ushered in the 2012 International Design Competition in which 20 firms were invited to submit entries for revamping Fort Mason, according to Chappell.

For years, the nonprofit foundation that runs the historic Fort Mason helped to preserve some of the cultural institutions.

“But like every other real estate venture, the world has changed for Fort Mason since September 15, 2008. The National Park Service is squeezed for resources; the non-profit tenants have always been; and Fort Mason is searching for new ways to meet its mission of supporting arts and culture in San Francisco. Thus the design competition. The competition brief called for visions to “inject cohesion, focus, and renewed energy into the campus” and “enhance Fort Mason Center’s profile as an arts and cultural destination.”

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