Steve Falk: Mid-Market Street’s best new hope can happen 

Blight. Neglect. Crime. These are the words that come to mind when you think of San Francisco’s mid-
Market Street area.

Once a hub of retail and the arts, mid-Market has become four blocks of boarded-up storefronts in the middle of our city’s most significant transit corridor. After decades of failed attempts to revitalize the area, San Francisco once again has an opportunity to set a new course for mid-Market in the proposed CityPlace development, which will bring new retail, sidewalk improvements and pedestrian activity to the heart of Market Street.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors will vote on whether or not to reject an appeal of the project’s environmental impact report. The result will either jump-start the project — and the area’s transformation — or destroy one of our best hopes in decades to revitalize mid-Market.

As San Francisco continues to face high unemployment and declining tax revenue, supervisors should take this opportunity to redevelop one of our city’s most neglected areas, while creating jobs and stimulating the economy.

Located on the south side of Market Street between Fifth and Sixth streets, CityPlace will bring a modern five-story building to mid-Market. The glass-fronted building will include 250,000 square feet of value-based retail not currently found in other parts of The City.

The project will convert Stevenson Street, the alleyway directly behind CityPlace, into a corridor of small retail spaces for microvendors.
At the center of the mid-Market area, CityPlace has the potential to accelerate the area’s transformation and serve as an anchor for a revitalized community. Increased foot traffic will help improve safety by putting more feet and eyes on the streets. The development will help attract other new businesses to the area. This activity, along with the new weekly Arts Market at the U.N. Plaza and other projects in Mayor Gavin Newsom’s mid-Market revitalization plan, will bring people and commerce back to this forgotten neighborhood.

Let’s not forget about the impact CityPlace will have on jobs. As more than 40,000 San Franciscans remain unemployed, CityPlace is expected to create 250 construction jobs and 760 permanent retail positions. And, new retail and commerce will generate significant tax revenue for The City. These employment and economic benefits alone should be enough to warrant the project’s approval.

Yet, the future of CityPlace remains uncertain. The project’s opponents are aggressively working to kill the development and would rather see nothing change in the mid-Market area. They claim the project provides too much parking and that it will not fit in with the “visual character” of the block. In reality, CityPlace includes only modest parking for a development of its size, and it was planned to leverage Market Street’s abundant public transit options.

It’s true that previous attempts to revitalize mid-Market have failed, for a variety of reasons. But, now is the moment to change the course. Convenience. Commerce. Activity. These are the words that will come to mind about mid-Market if the Board of Supervisors acts to reject the appeal against the CityPlace environmental impact report.

Steve Falk is president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. Falk’s op-ed will appear on the first Thursday of each month.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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