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Apparel City: San Francisco's Garment District

Welcome to Curbed SF's Could Have Been, where we investigate some of the most outlandish and grandiose proposals that were never built. Know of a plan that never saw the light of day? The tipline's always open or you can leave a comment after the jump.

Plan for Apparel City, 1945 [Photo: Milwaukee Journal via Eric Fischer]

Back in the 1940s, San Francisco was ripe for redevelopment, including two huge trade centers. One of these was Apparel City, designed to house all phases of the west coast garment industry. Planned for the southeast part of the city, the 34 acre site was bounded by Oakdale Ave, Loomis and Industrial Streets, in a triangle bound by today's highways 101 and 280.

Interior of a fabric factory, 1950 [Photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY]

There were lots of reasons to expand the garment industry in SF, including the climate and California labor laws, but our favorite was the "freshness of California viewpoint in daring designs and original modeling." Construction began in 1946, with the first section opening in 1948 and tenants moved in right away. The site had to be cleared of some house trailers, but the plan called for 32 buildings ranging from one to six stories high. They'd include all elements of the garment industry, including offices, manufacturing, and display auditoriums. Buildings were designed to be light pastel colored separated by wide drives and landscaping.

Street scene in Apparel City [Photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY]

The idea was to create a little city within the city, and include services like doctors and beauty parlors, garages, and a swimming pool. The whole plan was estimated to cost about $5M to implement (that's about $63M today), but was unique for being financed entirely by contributions from west coast garment manufacturers. Only the first half million square feet was completed in a first phase, and eventually other industry moved in. By the 1960s, the area became home to several record distribution centers, including King Records and Capital Records.

· "Apparel City," Bay Region's New Garment Industry Unit Under Construction Soon [City County Record via Internet Archive]
· SF Distribs Move [Billboard via Google Books]
· San Francisco Planning Two Big Trade Centers [Milwaukee Journal]