Historically, the dimly-lit underpasses of freeway ramps have been havens for homeless encampments, shady drug deals and other types of seedy behavior.
With the development of the new Transbay Transit Center requiring several overhead ramps for buses, project backers might have been intimidated by the prospect of those unseemly spaces dotting the landscape of the SoMa District. Instead, they’re viewing such spaces as places for positive possibilities.
A vertical climbing wall, basketball courts, a dog park, public art and a biking path are all set to comprise Oscar Park, a public open space situated mostly beneath the various ramps that are part of the $1.5 billion bus and train terminal.
Children will be able to zoom down a covered tube slide at the park’s playground, and parents can lounge in public seating areas or shop in nearby retail spaces. In the few areas where a freeway overpass doesn’t loom overhead, there will be grassy open spaces, said Courtney Pash, of the Successor to the Redevelopment Agency, The City department overseeing the project.
“We wanted to make sure that the sites below the ramps did not become places for negative activity,” said Pash.
“We knew that there would be opportunities to turn these places into open spaces with really positive outlets.”
Most of the space will be centered around Folsom and Howard streets and the smaller alleys that intersect with the arteries. Pash said that designers have looked at open spaces in Mission Creek, where basketball courts and grassy tracts are located underneath freeways, as examples to help inform Oscar Park. They’ve also studied sites in New York City and Portland, Oregon for inspiration.
The Successor to the Redevelopment Agency — a department under transition as part of the state’s decision to dissolve all redevelopment agencies — will hold a public meeting on the Oscar Park proposal some time this fall to gather feedback from the community.
The proposal for the park is likely to be refined, at which time the agency will provide cost estimate for the project, with funding coming from tax revenues collected by businesses and residences in the redevelopment site, Pash said. The park is set to be constructed in either 2016 or 2017, and will complement a separate 5.5-acre rooftop park that will be maintained by the Transbay Joint Powers Authority.
“There really isn’t that much open space in the area right now,” Pash said. “This development will help change that situation.”