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Cranespotting: Nabe Changers
Ben Christopher | Photo: As Credited | October 14, 2013
These 18 apartment buildings are indelibly altering their neighborhoods. For better or for worse? Depends on your perspective.
1. Marlow (Polk Gulch)
1800 Van Ness Ave.
A breath of like on the avenue
While Polk Street is exploding with barhopping street life just a block away, the action has been slower to come to broad and bleak Van Ness. But when the units of this checkerboard apartment building came up for presale last spring, they went fast. Does this reflect the appeal of the fanciful architecture, our insatiable appetite for real estate, or the boulevard’s changing fortunes? Most likely, all of the above. Mixed use/Spring 2014/80 ft.
2. Venn (Hayes Valley)
1844 Market St.
When hoods collide
As in Venn diagram, get it? This condo project’s name is a play on its location at the intersection of Hayes Valley, the Castro, the Lower Haight, and the Mission. While the building may not stand out in size or style compared to bigger and bolder adjacent developments, the fact that it has so many adjacent developments to fall short of says a lot about the trajectory of the neighborhood. Mixed use/Fall 2013/75 ft.
3. Ava (SOMA)
55 Ninth St.
Located “directly across from the new Twitter headquarters,” as the Ava website points out to online apartment hunters, this building has a bike repair room and a “chill lounge.” Of course, Ava doesn’t “want to tell you how to live”—but it does suggest that you check out its “rad apartments.” While radness is in the eye of the beholder, green rooftops, an outdoor movie screen, and reconfigurable living spaces do sound like a step up from college life. Mixed use/Spring 2014/188 ft.
4. Mosso (SOMA)
900 Folsom St.
Colorful two-wheeled living
Mosso is reaching out to a very particular segment of buyer with its LEED Gold certifi cation, high walkability rating, and playful staircase corner that houses a bike fix-it and washing station. Wondering if it’s your speed? The advertorial invites prospective residents to “wash your bike after an afternoon ride, then take a quick walk a block to Whole Foods.” Residential/Spring 2014/85 ft.
5. Block 13 West (Mission Bay)
690 Long Bridge St.
Surrounded by parkland
This building’s design (obligatorily sleek), its amenities (in-house community and fitness center), and the surroundings (three of the building’s four sides face park space) make life in Mission Bay look pretty good. But when critics of the neighborhood’s development decry architectural conservatism, this is what they have in mind. Residential/Spring 2015/160 ft.
6. 100 Van Ness (Civic Center)
Let there be light
In 1973, this 29-story cinder block of a building may have seemed the cutting edge of offic etower design, but these days, no tech startup worth its Series A would be caught dead occupying such drab brutalism. “Stalinist” is how Emerald Fund’s Oz Erickson allegedly described the old facade at a Planning Department hearing last year. His solution: Swap the Soviet concrete shell for an iridescent glass skin, lay out 400 high-end rental units where once there were offices, and bring some light and glasnost to the drab Van Ness corridor. Residential/Spring 2015/400 ft.
7. Lux Collection (SOMA)
1415 Mission St.
The SoMa sensibility
While “SoMa” now conjures images of walkable streets with fancy cafés, the intersection of 10th and Mission is still a no-man’sland of parking lots. With this project—a dozen stories of stacked dichromatic cubes including a wine bar and a living wall—trendy SoMa inches ever westward. Mixed use/Spring 2015/80 ft.
8. Broadway-Sansome Apartments (Jackson Square)
255 Broadway St.
A new city blend
If you still equate the term “public housing” with eyesore, take a look at this. From the drafting table of Mithun | Solomon (the firm behind Hunters View in the Bayview), this seven-story development, which mixes social service–integrated low-income housing with market-rate rentals, boasts two architectural motifs: maritime warehousing for the elongated east wing and more typical Telegraph Hill–style vertical windows for the western corner. Residential/Winter 2015/65 ft.
9. Linea (Hayes Valley)
1960 Market St.
In just a few months, everyone making their way to Hayes Valley or the Castro by way of Market and Buchanan will cross paths with this: an arrangement of glass blocks nine stories high. Ostentatiously opulent or lightheartedly unique—whatever your take on the project, it’s a fitting welcome to either neighborhood. Mixed use/Winter 2014/85 ft.
10. Blanc (Polk Gulch)
1080 Sutter St.
Much more Nob Hill than Tenderloin, this flat-faced boutique development on the fringes of the two neighborhoods will offer 35 mostly higher end units. There’s nothing too remarkable about the building itself—one person’s un-embellished elegance is another person’s meh—but as development chases the influx of trendy nightlife to lower Polk Street, consider this a sign of things to come. Mixed use/Fall 2013/123 ft.
11. 1180 Fourth (Mission Bay)
Public housing with style
Sprouting up at the northern edge of a neighborhood-in-progress, this project has neither entrenched NIMBYs to appease nor deep-seated aesthetic guidelines to mind. Such freedom is atypical for any housing project, let alone one for low-income families and the recently homeless. But with a variegated glass facade, a green roof, and an application for a LEED Platinum rating, this building should actually fit in among the labs and lofts that will soon surround it. Mixed use/Summer 2014/83 ft.
12. Nema (Mid-market)
14 10 St.
Moving in on Market
If tech-oriented commercial development has been jabbing away at the mid-Market corridor, then this massive residential complex of buildings, ranging from 10 to 37 stories high, represents the knockout punch. Aimed at Twitter employees who work right across the street, the development will have a palpable effect on the culture of the neighborhood as well as the downtown skyline. Residential/Spring 2014/387 ft.
13. 38 Dolores (Mission)
Oozing PC goodness
A green-roofed, LEED Gold–certified luxury condo takes the place of a car dealership; Whole Foods moves in downstairs; and outside, a bumped-out sidewalk makes room for bikes and pedestrians at the expense of cars in this well trafficked corridor. Greener and denser, 38 Dolores is all of the city’s planning goals made manifest on one street corner. Mixed use/Completed/80 ft.
14. 8 Octavia (Hayes Valley)
After the overpass
In 2002, the city demolished the stretch of freeway that ran above Octavia, opening a floodgate of traffic but also unleashing a wave of development that has washed over the area since. Wedged into a corner of Market Street, space-efficient and flamboyant, with a facade resembling stacked, luminous shipping crates, 8 Octavia is the foamy edge of that wave, breathlessly heralding itself as the “gateway to San Francisco.” Mixed use/Summer 2014/75 ft.
15. Bill Sorro Community (SOMA)
200 Sixth St.
A facade without furniture
Aside from its scuzziness, the Hugo Hotel building, which has occupied this corner of Sixth and Howard since 1909, is famous mostly for the surrealistic furniture that hangs from its sides (you know, that building). But starting next summer, this site may see some honest-to-God urban infill. Gone will be the old Victorian SRO, replaced by a bigger, slicker, more modern building with nine stories of sunlit and balconied low income housing. Residential/2016/85 ft.
16. 101 Polk (Civic Center)
Paving over a parking lot
In a city where even canine play areas are met with Planning Commission challenges, this project is remarkable for how controversial it isn’t. Among those saying aye to the proposed 13-story apartment building to be constructed atop an open parking lot between Market and City Hall: SPUR, neighborhood associations from Hayes Valley and Civic Center, the S.F. Housing Action Coalition, the S.F. Bicycle Coalition, and the Symphony. Those who say nay? Crickets. Residential/2015/120 ft.
17. 300 Ivy (Hayes Valley)
Going like hotcakes
The first weekend that these 63 units—a mix of David Baker-designed apartments and townhouses—went on the market last spring, more than 300 buyers lined up to check them out. The design may not be revolutionary, but it’s a sign of the times: These days, any decent-looking real estate, to say nothing of Hayes Valley real estate with LEED certification, goes quickly. Mixed use/Completed/54.5 ft.
18. Trinity Place III (Mid-market)
1190 Mission St.
An early adopter marches on
Some may think of Angelo Sangiacomo as a slumlord, but given that he was dreaming up high-end condos on Mission back when “mid-Market revival” read like an oxymoron, you could make a case that he was a visionary. One decade and a board mediated compromise later, the third phase of his four part project breaks ground, sticking with the supersize-Lego-block look—and concluding one of the more contentious recent downtown real estate battles. Residential/Fall 2016/240 ft.
Castles in the Sky: Downtown Titans
Nabe Changers: Neighborhood Defining Apartment Buildings
Open for Business: Office Buildings, Malls, and Hotels
Cultural Beacons: The Arts Will Endure
Urban Levittowns: Planned Communities, Hold the Vanilla
Service by Design: Modern Overhauls for Civic Stalwarts
Originally published in the November issue of San Francisco