Transit district development plan gets hearing

A plan to reshape the South of Market neighborhood surrounding the planned new Transbay Terminal, laying the groundwork for new development that could include the tallest building on the West Coast, passes before the Planning Commission today.

The commission will consider approval of the final environmental impact report and zoning changes for the Transit Center District Plan, The City’s vision for shaping development in the neighborhoods around the new terminal. The $4 billion project being built at First and Mission streets includes a new bus terminal and an extension of Caltrain that could also accommodate high-speed rail.

The district plan, in development since 2007, builds on city plans dating back as far as the mid-1980s to shift development further south of the old Financial District. The plans centers on the area between Market Street, The Embarcadero, Folsom Street and Hawthorne Street.

If approved by the Planning Commission, the plan will move on to the Board of Supervisors for final approval, possibly this summer.

 “It’s an exceptionally important hearing,” said Joshua Switzky of the Planning Department. “Assuming they approve it, it would set the stage for entitling some important new projects and generate hundreds of millions of dollars for public improvements and infrastructure.”

One of those projects, the planned 61-story, 1,070-foot Transit Tower office building at the terminal site, could come up for approval at the Planning Commission in the fall. Although scaled down from its original planned height of 1,200 feet, it would still dwarf The City’s current tallest building, the 48-floor Transamerica Pyramid, which stands 853 feet tall and was completed in 1972.

“It’s still the iconic tower that The City was looking for from the beginning,” said Paul Paradis, senior managing director at Hines, the developer on the project.

The towering glass and white metal building is expected to help significantly fund the terminal project, with $575 million anticipated for the downtown rail extension, and street and open space improvements.

Paradis said that as the market improves in The City improves, available office space is diminishing. Construction on the tower could begin as soon as next year, he said.

“I think that it’s going to provide a much needed space for the tenants of San Francisco,” Paradis said. “We’ve been in discussions with some larger tenants already.”

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