S.F. urban center, on drawing board, already spurs input

The San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association hasn’t broken ground on its urban center yet, but it’s already getting calls from museums on the East Coast and in Europe, offering up new exhibits on urban planning.

“Word has gotten out,” said Diane Filippi, director of the urban center. “Yale University has a museum … We got a call from Switzerland. It’s becoming a magnet.”

SPUR’s planned 12,000-square-foot urban center on the 600 block of Mission Street near New Montgomery Street is slated to break ground in the beginning of next year. It is scheduled to open in early 2008.

Similar centers exist in Paris, New York and Washington, D.C. The goal is to attract 150,000 people during 2008 to contemplate, discuss and learn about urban planning and public policy.

“People can be passionate about San Francisco there,” Filippi said. “This gives them a place.”

SPUR aims to be a resource on policy and planning, to make planning more transparent and to educate and engage visitors. The $10 million project is more than halfway funded, with about $250,000 rolling in each month from fundraising, said Jim Chappell, SPUR’s president.

As The City bursts with development projects and plans from SoMa to Treasure Island, the new center will give visitors a place to learn about the details of the various proposals.

“Our job is to shine the flashlight” on development and planning, Chappell said.

In SoMa, four towers are under construction in the Rincon Hill neighborhood, and others are in the works. A proposal for Treasure Island calls for creating a community with as many as 5,500 homes within walking distance from a park, shopping and ferries. The Mission Bay development, which covers 303 acres of land between San Francisco Bay and Interstate 280, will likely provide up to 6,000 housing units.

Visitors to the urban center might see blueprints and models of the projects, take in a film about urban planning, hear a panel discussion or take a class, among other things. The center will offer a 125-seat assembly hall, library, gallery and meeting rooms. Construction is slated to begin early next year.

The new Mission Street structure will be made out of glass, stucco and metal to allow natural light to shine through much of it. The design is by Pfau Architecture Ltd.

mcarroll@examiner.com

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