Several years ago when I first arrived in San Francisco, one of my first exploratory treks in the city began with a walk up Market Street from the Ferry building. I strolled over wide brick sidewalks, watched antique street cars glide along rails, gazed upon historic buildings of rich architecture, and embraced outpouring enthusiasm from wide-eyed tourists on Powell Street. I continued past Fifth Street and headed into an area known as Mid-Market where unexpectedly my delightful experience slipped away and the surrounding environment quickly deteriorated. Without going into much detail, the scene epitomized urban decay and continued in the same vein until I reached Van Ness Avenue.
What a difference two and a half years can make. I recently found myself again in the Mid-Market neighborhood as my curious eyes caught sight of a sky-piercing yellow crane near Fifth and Market Street. Dilapidated buildings and roaming despondent souls still graced the area and pungent scents of urine occasionally tickled my nose, however, when compared to my first experience, the sense of despair and neglect was diminished and replaced with subtle signs of positivity, progress, and change. Cyclists packed the bike lanes, more people occupied the sidewalks, and adjacent properties were strewn with trendy restaurants, new construction, and buildings under renovation. Eventually, I arrived near the crane’s base which was firmly planted in a large deep excavated site filled with construction materials and heavy machinery.
Architect Gensler designed the building’s Market Street side with a transparent glass facade intended to visually draw out activities and energies from within the building onto the nearby street below. The boxy structure, which resembles the upcoming Union Square Apple Store, will rise to a height of 90 feet despite being on a lot zoned for 120.
Based on current progress, contractor Plant Construction has at least 18 months of work before project completion. Currently, the mall is projected to be finished by fall 2016. Once completed, Market Street Place will further add to the rejuvenation of an area once plagued by persistent blight and decay.