San Francisco CRE News: New Office Addition to SF Skyline?

Boston Properties pitches 1.1 million-square-foot office addition to S.F. skyline
Source: San Francisco Business Times
By: Cory Weinberg
Dated Posted: September 29, 2015

Real estate giant Boston Properties, already building the tallest tower in San Francisco, has just proposed another huge addition to the skyline in South of Market.

The real estate investment trust filed preliminary plans for a 1.1-million-square-foot office complex that will sprawl on a full block across Fourth and Harrison Streets (across from Whole Foods). It will include a 240-foot-tall, carved-up tower that will likely become a future technology hub.


“In a similar way we think about Salesforce Tower as a vertical campus, we think of this as an urban campus that will be attractive to large tech tenants,” said Michael Tymoff, senior project manager at Boston Properties. “We want the project to reflect the Centraol SoMa neighborhood, and have it not be a downtown office building or suburban office park from an architectural perspective.”

I reported in February that Boston Properties (NYSE: BXP) finalized a purchase option for the 102,000-square-foot lot that now houses a parking garage and a rundown auto repair shop. Boston is one of several big-time developers that have swarmed the Central SoMa area getting rezoned for more height and office use. The rezoning plan should get Board of Supervisors approved next year.

The plan’s preparation has triggered proposals from several major developers, like Kilroy Realty’s Flower Mart office complex, Tishman Speyer’s proposal of condominium towers that would raze the Creamery cafe, and Alexandria Real Estate Equities’ transformation of the decades-old S.F. Tennis Club into an office-fitness mixed-use project.

Boston Properties’ plan is not only one of the largest, but one of the most visually striking – love it, or hate it. A 65-foot podium building with a 90,000-square-foot floor plate will span the entire site. A 130-foot-tall midrise will stack on top on the eastern edge and a 240-foot tower on the western end.

“There aren’t many other buildings in the city that come close to 90,000-square-foot floor plate from a contiguous standpoint. It’ll stand out from the crowd,” Tymoff said.

Architect HOK (Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum) looked to “accentuate the ‘elegant and sculpted’ impression of the tower portion both as viewed from the neighborhood and distance along the skyline” with “sculpted buildings,” according to the plans.

“The various carvings into the tower result in a mass that resembles several individual buildings, rather than a single monolithic tower,” according to the plans.

In all, the project would include 907,300 square feet of office space, 9,900 square feet of retail and 53,6000 square feet of “flexible” space that will likely be zoned to open up more space for manufacturers or artists. It will also include about 15,600 square feet of public open space.

Of course, this project will likely shift at least slightly as the Central SoMa plan gets firmed up. The heights mostly conform with what the 2013 draft plan set as guidelines.

The Central SoMa rezoning would funnel an additional $600 million to $800 million into the city’s coffers from developers. The plan could also mandate that developers boost the amount of affordable housing and art and manufacturing space they build. The goal? Harness lucrative office development for more public good. (The trick, of course, is making sure that development is still financially viable even when San Francisco hits an inevitable economic skid.)

The project’s initial plans don’t go far enough in ensuring the neighborhood’s affordability, said SoMa activist John Elberling, who has been working with developers and the Planning Department to try to shape a “community plan.”

“We’ve proposed carving out an affordable housing site, about 15,000-square-feet, on (the site’s) east end. That’s not included,” he said. Elberling added that the building’s entire ground floor should be for affordable manufacturing or arts space, not just 50,000 square feet.

Another twist? The project may sit in a long line of development trying to nab the city’s finite office allocation, which is running out due to the 1986 office cap known as Proposition M. The mayor’s office has pitched some potential solutions to the pipeline clog, but hasn’t followed through on policy changes.

“We’re watching it close,” Tymoff said.

Link to article: Addition to SF Skyline