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Best of San Francisco 2009: Buildings and Neighborhood

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We've had our decade's top 10, now it's time to hand out awards for the year's brightest stars, friend or foe. Or both!

Best Building (Built)

It's a cinch: the Millennium Tower's one of the only major buildings to open for business this year, and how! John Rahaim, the city's planning director, named it one of his fave buildings, and we named it one of the best in the decade (almost!) for being such a tall, dark, and handsome addition to the skyline.

Runner-up: But big doesn't necessarily mean beautiful. By comparison, the newly opened SPUR Urban Center plays mouse to Millennium's elephant. The headquarters of the urban think tank also doubles as a gallery for the public, bringing San Francisco into the hallowed and nerdy halls of other cities with urban planning museums, like Paris and Shanghai. Hey, we love our city.

Best Building (Killed)

The late Don Fisher's Contemporary Art Museum of the Presidio. Pick your poison — the old, white boxy design, or the height-chopped, glassy one. Either way, the museum would have housed a world-class modern art collection, and at the very least deserves credit for the sheer chutzpah of trying to ram through a wall of shrill neighbors' opposition. In the end, Fisher decided it'd be easier to just partner with SFMOMA to exhibit his art, and CAMP will end up just a footnote in our museum history.

Runner-up: Not exactly killed, but it was killed for a year, if that makes any sense. The Hanging Gardens of the Embarcadero, otherwise known as 110 The Embarcadero was proposed by the same team that would build the Transbay Transit Center and Tower. The 10-story building would feature foliage clinging to its sides and a coveted Platinum LEED rating, but it's now in environmental-study purgatory because 1) it's too tall, and 2) it would require demolition of a possibly historic building.

Best Neighborhood

Mid-Market's not even really a neighborhood, but it's gotten so much attention this year, how could it not win? A Market Street car-restriction trial, art plastered over storefronts, a failed proposition to light up the drag with ads, a proposed 7-story mall, and the enduring mystery of the Superb Art Museum of America. Seriously, Mid-Market's got it going on.

Runner-up: It's completely nonexistent, and it was named by its developers for cryin' out loud, but Mission Rock formally announced itself early this year with a multipart report that promised just one of San Francisco's many future utopian wonderlands. For that, the non-neighborhood that at the moment is nothing more than a parking lot and a Cirque du Soleil tent deserves some credit. If and when it's ever finished (circa 2030, seriously), it'll have a huge waterfront park, a public plaza at Pier 48, and a Barcelona-wannabe pedestrian "thoroughfare" that's even called Las Ramblas. Once again, points for chutzpah.

Also check out yesterday's Best Villain, Best Bum Fight, and Best New Thing.