USF science center can take next step

A private university’s science curriculum and regal campus will both be reinvented through construction of a landmark building.

The University of San Francisco, a sprawling university that occupies much of the Lone Mountain neighborhood north of the Panhandle, secured approval from city planners to build a 60,000-square-foot science center.

The Planning Commission’s approval on Thursday of the USF Center for Science and Innovation building plan was an important milestone for the Jesuit university because it indicated that years of opposition to the project led by some neighbors had collapsed.

Construction timelines are unclear, however, as the university is still trying to raise funds needed for the $50 million to $60 million project, according to physics professor Brandon Brown.

“We’re over halfway to our fundraising goal, but there’s a ways to go,” Brown said.

The center will climb 60 feet above ground, but much will be built underground.

The new building — filled with laboratory space, classrooms and hangout areas — will replace the cramped Harney Science Center, which was built in 1966 when science enrollments at the university were just half of today’s levels.

The center is planned between Fulton Street and Golden Gate Avenue, east of Parker Street.

A subterranean atrium will provide an anchor for a rejuvenated student plaza.

The University Terrace Association, a neighborhood group, withdrew an appeal it had filed against the plans just hours before planning commissioners held a hearing Thursday evening regarding the dispute.

The association complained that construction plans would boost student numbers and traffic problems in the sleepy neighborhood.

An appeal alleged that The City had failed to properly analyze those impacts.

But the association’s appeal was yanked in exchange for an agreement that university contractors will limit construction hours and truck traffic at the building site.

The association installed a new president prior to Thursday’s vote and struck a long-term agreement to work closely with the university on campus-planning issues.

jupton@sfexaminer.com

USF Center for Science and Innovation

60,000 square feet Floor space
50 feet Building height
60 feet Height including mechanical equipment
10 Classrooms and teaching laboratories
7 Below-ground classrooms and teaching laboratories

Source: Planning Commission

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