San Francisco Mayor to NYC: “Eat Your Heart Out.”

transbay-transit-center-rendering-small1.jpgA rendering of the Transbay Transit Center with a 5.4 acre park on its roof.

At a groundbreaking ceremony for the long-awaited Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco yesterday, Mayor Gavin Newsom asserted the project will be "so much more extraordinary than Grand Central Station."

Pointing to the renderings on a projection screen behind him, with a 5.4 acre park atop the terminal, 2600 units of housing (with a pledge of 35% affordable homes), the construction of the tallest building in the West, and a terminal expected to serve 100,000 daily riders, Mayor Newsom added: "Eat your heart out, New York City."

If the city manages to find the $2 billion necessary to complete the project, San Francisco’s transit hub would be finished in 2014, 101 years after Cornelius Vanderbilt opened the doors to New York’s Grand Central Terminal.

The Transbay Transit Center, a public-private partnership headed by the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA), will replace the existing Transbay Terminal with a multi-modal transportation hub that would serve nine transportation systems in the same complex, including the potential California High Speed Rail route through San Francisco.  

Mayor Newsom and several other speakers stressed the economic significance of a large-scale construction project as the overall economy sours and the city makes budget cuts.  

Nathaniel Ford, Sr., Chairman of the TJPA and head of MUNI, argued that "without projects like this, we will not be able to provide mobility for the growing population of California, and bring together the fractured public transportation system in San Francisco."  

Mayor Gavin Newsom, former Mayor Willie Brown, and board members of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority

Though the project design is impressive, funding remains a daunting obstacle. As outlined in the excellent feature story by Steve Jones in the San Francisco Bay Guardian yesterday, the TJPA has not found the money to pay for the entire project and may be relying on state funding that won’t materialize, especially with California’s ballooning budget deficit.

While the TJPA has suggested that it hopes the Transbay Transit Center will catch the eye of President-elect Barack Obama’s team, as it expedites construction projects for the fiscal stimulus package early next year, it will be only one of many transit projects competing with the road and bridge lobby, which is already circling the wagons nationally and in California.

"It’s exciting to see the first shovel in the soil for the new terminal and there are still real concerns about how we raise the additional $2 billion or so for the project," said Dave Snyder, transportation policy director for San Francisco Planning and Urban Research. "But this is a perfect public works project for the new century."

Below are the various renderings of the proposed terminal as presented by Mayor Newsom and the TJPA at the groundbreaking:

The Natoma Street facade

The center light column from below…

… and above.

The view from Mission Square

Photo: Matthew Roth

  • i thought this was technically a ground-breaking for the new temporary terminal, but i guess they kinda combined the two?

    got me.

  • Larry Littlefield

    This is the equivalent of the platform over the West Side Railyards, Flushing Line Extension, East Side Access, MetroNorth to Penn idea. The goal is to centralize high density development to the area around the terminal.

    Good for them — IF they can get the money.

  • JJ

    Why don’t you got there if you like it so much?

  • Rhywun

    I thought no building was allowed to be taller than the Transatlantic Pyramid? There must have been howls of protest over erecting “the tallest building of the West”.

  • NYC maybe should be hopeful that it doesn’t end up with something like this. There’s no reason to interrupt the street level for five blocks to create monstrosities like this. Rail stations don’t need to be big and expensive — they need to move people!

  • Rhywun

    > Rail stations don’t need to be big

    Yeah, Penn Station proved that….

  • Larry Littlefield

    (I thought no building was allowed to be taller than the Transatlantic Pyramid? There must have been howls of protest over erecting “the tallest building of the West”.)

    I’ve been writing four reports on San Francico four times a year since May 2005. There has been an evolution of thinking there, and most people have accepted the idea that density, particularly for commercial, is green, and so is redevelopment of older areas into walkable communities vs. suburban sprawl.

    Every suburbs in California, it seems, wants its walkable, 24/7, part residential downtown (though with the housing bust they may not get it).

    They still yell about Walmart and the development of still-undeveloped areas (increasingly scarce west of the mountains). But they want downtowns with lots of people in pedestrians. Same in LA (Downtown LA may not survive the bust) and San Diego (probably will, but all those condos might be middle class instead of “luxury”).

  • poncho

    NYC to SF Mayor: “In Your Dreams.”

    Who dropped an SFO terminal in the middle of downtown SF?

  • Rhywun

    > Every suburbs in California, it seems, wants its
    > walkable, 24/7, part residential downtown

    Oh sure, everybody says they want that, but even here in NYC people complain if a new building is “too tall”–mostly they complain about traffic (of course) and between the lines they think it will hurt property values. Most people don’t care, sure, but these people are particularly loud & get a lot of attention.

  • ” There’s no reason to interrupt the street level for five blocks to create monstrosities like this.”

    The renderings I have seen look nice at street level, with passageways through, unlike the current terminal. I don’t think it blocks any throughways.

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    I thought no building was allowed to be taller than the Transatlantic Pyramid? There must have been howls of protest over erecting “the tallest building of the West”.

    There are actually seven buildings in the proposed Transbay Redevelopment Plan that would be taller than the Transamerica Pyramid. Three of the proposed buildings would be the same height at 1200ft.

  • Bob Shoring

    As impressive as it looks, what will really matter is how well it functions.

    Will there be sufficient tracks to accomodate all the Caltrain passengers, plus high-speed, plus any other future inter-city trains? The current Caltrain station at 4th and Townsend has 12 tracks. If trains are just passing through you can get by with fewer, but if trains terminate there, ample track capacity will be critical. Otherwise the existing Caltrain Terminal would be preferable.

    Like Grand Central in New York, will a subway line or two enter the terminal? If they have their act together, a Geary Subway would run from there. The BART/Metro Embarcadero station is about 3-4 blocks away.

    This place has great potential, but it all has to come together, otherwise it will be an expensive bus terminal.

    Bob Shoring

  • Stephen

    I saw a presentation of this last year and it looks very promising. But it’s imperative that they are able to get Caltrain and HSR into the terminal. IIRC, someone brought up the question of how they will deal with the homelessness that we currently see at the current terminal (what’s to stop them from sleeping in this brand new facility)… I don’t remember the response though.

    The Market St Subway/BART may have a pedestrian connection to the Terminal, but that is just one of several options.

  • one

    “If the city manages to find the $2 billion necessary to complete the project…” Lots o’ luck with that.

  • Rhywun, the bank of america building is taller than the transamerica building, so i doubt there was any howling.

    looking at the renderings, i’d say that grand central has nothing to worry about. penn station on the other hand…

    i liked the original transbay terminal building. shame they will tear it down.

  • momos

    Newsom is right. Read it and weep, New York.

    You’re all trying to find things to nitpick. It’s too big. Are there sufficient tracks. Is it taller or shorter than the Transamerica Pyramid. It interrupts the street grid.

    The fact is, SF is getting on with it. And us?

    Moynihan Station
    Complete Second Ave subway
    Congestion pricing
    42nd St light rail
    Laguardia airport rail link
    Cross harbor freight tunnel

    … and on and on

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Complete Second Ave subway”

    Don’t be so sure we get the top half. I believe Sheldon Silver’s plan to kill it by slowing it down by three years while allowing East Side Access to move forward for Long Island commuters will be successful.

  • Rhywun

    > SF is getting on with it

    Given that they’re in no better financial shape over there than we are over here in NY, I seriously doubt they’ll get very far.

  • Boris

    What an atrocious building design. Pointless modernism that’ll be out of date the moment it’s built. All that curved glass is so expensive, fragile, and has poor relation to the street. Same goes for the pointless repetitive curving pathways on the rooftop park.

    Any number of architects could have delivered something cheaper to build, yet better.

  • I remember many moons ago when talked about the Manhattanization of San Francisco. Now it’s a good thing. Go figure!

    Check out my new book “50 Greatest Photo Opportunities in San Francisco.”

  • McLovin

    This project is awesome. It doesn’t interrupt anything as if you read the plan design, the park is above ground. Cars and traffic would flow underneath it. Plus the country’s first true high speed rail will join SF and LA in two hours or so. Love it.

  • Nick From California
  • Nick From California

    I meant to say 2007.

  • is it me, or does newsom look like patrick bateman in that pic? maybe he’s burying a body.

  • sfmotion

    A couple simple points first: the Transamerica Pyramid is the tallest building in SF, not the BofA building.
    And there won’t be any car traffic flowing beneath the park or through the building at all. It will all have to go around. I don’t think this will be a problem (it isn’t now). And if it is a problem, who is it a problem for? Car drivers? What gives them the right to have a thoroughfare wherever they want? Isn’t pedestrian experience worth anything? Lots if ask me…
    But what I really wanted to say is that the building they want to build with the terminal was limited to 1000 feet or so for the most parochial reasons: the planning dept. wanted to keep this “sinuous skyline”, an aesthetic point that they say is distinctive about SF. Sounds like a weak reason not to build higher (there will be other buildings in the area with heights around 800 ft. not 1200) and create more density.


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