Pedestrian-friendly proposals suggested for Transbay Terminal

Concepts are intended to bring feeling of community to burgeoning neighborhood

A new park, more than 1,000 trees and cars traveling in both directions on Folsom Street are some of the proposals designed to make the Transbay Terminal neighborhood more pedestrian-friendly.

While planners foresee a high-rise-filled neighborhood teeming with pedestrians, some worry that the Manhattan-style proposal is not in keeping with San Francisco’s style.

The dilapidated terminal at First and Mission streets is slated for rebuilding and is expected to bring Caltrain, high-speed rail service and a variety of bus services to the new transit hub. The $3.4 billion project, proponents say, will one day be the Grand Central Station of the West.

To help pay for the project, which has just $1.5 billion in funds, city planners have proposed building three nearby towers. One of them, at 1,000 feet, would be the tallest structure in The City. The other two would not exceed 850 feet.

While those towers haven’t met official approval, 10 others are approved within the 40-acre redevelopment area around the terminal, said Mike Grisso, of the Redevelopment Agency.

The project area is loosely bound by Mission Street to the north, Folsom Street to the south, Second Street to the west and Main Street to the east. Roughly 3,400 new housing units are planned, along with 1.2 million square feet of office and hotel space. More than 500,000 square feet of retail space are included in the plans.

“This project is going to be a whole other city,” said Bruce Balshone, who sits on the Transbay Citizens Advisory Committee, which has reviewed the plans. “This is density that you have to look at in New York standards.”

Below the multitude of towers, city planners hope to create wide sidewalks that share grassy areas for dogs to play and streets that discourage speeding drivers in a new neighborhood designed to make people want to walk.

Currently, the one-way Folsom Street provides a place where some drivers speed, Grisso said. Folsom Street, which planners hope to transform into a commercial street, would be converted to a two-way street, with two lanes in each direction from Fremont to the Embarcadero. Construction could begin in 2009.

The Redevelopment Agency is slated to review the plans next month.

Making Folsom Street two-way would help calm traffic and make it better for pedestrians, said Daniel Krause, a transit advocate with Rescue Muni.

Main and Beale streets’ sidewalks would be widened to 30 feet by eliminating one lane of traffic, allowing for the creation of so-called linear parks.

The narrow parks taking up more than half of the sidewalk would include trees and grass, Grisso said.

Between Main and Beale streets and Folsom and Howard streets, a 1.1 acre park known as Transbay Square is slated to break ground sometime after 2013. Planners envision the space to include art that children can play with, such as duck sculptures, and water features such as a waterfall.

“In order to have pedestrian circulation, you have to draw people to the street,” said Norm Rolfe, a member of the Transbay Citizens Advisory Committee. “It also leads to less crime.”

mcarroll@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocal

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