Project Chronicles

Reviving a San Francisco landmark: Design of colossal urban mixed-use development includes restoration

February 01, 2002 |

835 Market St.

San Francisco

For more than a century, the Emporium department store has stood strong in the heart of San Francisco's retail district. Constructed in 1896, the structure was destroyed during the 1906 earthquake that obliterated most of San Francisco. Only a portion of its original façade was saved when the building was rebuilt in 1908. It housed the Emporium department store until February 1996, when the store closed, leaving a void in the middle of the retail district.

Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises is now heading the redevelopment of this San Francisco landmark into a new 1.58 million-sq.-ft. urban mixed-use center. Stretching from Market Street to Mission Street, the $400 million project includes the construction of a new 370,000-sq.-ft. Bloomingdale's department store, 480,000 square feet of retail and entertainment venues on five levels, 50,000 square feet of office space on three levels, and a 20-story, 465-room hotel. The project also entails restoration of the Emporium's historic façade.

"This project will reinvigorate Mission Street and an important portion of Market Street," says David Jones, Forest City's project developer. "With Yerba Buena on one side and the Market Street and Union Square shopping districts on the other, the project will provide the necessary synergy in the area to make this a unique destination for both residents and visitors."

The design team consists of executive architect KA Inc., Cleveland, and design architects RTKL Associates, Baltimore, and Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) Associates, New York City. RTKL is designing the retail, entertainment and office spaces, as well as all of the historic fabric preservation, including the restoration of the Market Street façade and the building's famed 102-ft.-wide glass-and-steel dome. KPF is lead architect for the Bloomingdale's department store and the hotel tower.

Forest City will own and lease the retail and entertainment areas and will lease the hotel space to an operator. Upon completion, Bloomingdale's will lease its space as part of a long-term operating agreement with Forest City.

Mixing past and future

"This development blends historic and contemporary architecture to create a new urban destination that embraces the city's fabric," says Norman Garden, RTKL vice president in charge of the project and managing director of the firm's Los Angeles office.

Garden says that RTKL's design organizes the development into a series of spaces that engage both the past and future of the city. The first organizing element is the 45-ft.-wide colonnade that extends from the two-level entry at Market Street through the project to Mission Street. "Envisioned as a 'walk through time,' the colonnade creates a pedestrian thoroughfare that taps into both historic Union Square and the emerging Yerba Buena district," he says.

The second organizing element, says Garden, involves elevating the Emporium's landmark dome to 54 feet, extending it above the existing adjacent roofline to allow natural light to filter to all levels. Deemed the heart and soul of the project and its central gathering space, the newly raised rotunda, with its eight arched clerestory windows, will be visible from all interior spaces.

Other design elements are meant to reflect the city. For example, the escalators will emulate the San Francisco streetscape, cascading at different angles within the atrium space and offset from one another to add design interest.

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