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New design for SF’s fourth-tallest building would cut housing

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Transbay Parcel F developers try another design

Renderings courtesy of Pelli Clark Pelli and SteelBlue

The team developing Transbay Parcel F—a trio of buildings that include real estate firm Hines, Goldman Sachs affiliate Broad Street, and Urban Pacific Development—announced a new design for their proposed structure on Howard Street, a 61-story mixed-use project on parcels that the confederation of companies bought for $160 million in 2016.

Previously the proposal called for a mixed-use high-rise of mostly office space, but also with 200 units of housing. The 2016 design featured a boxy spire of glass with a twisted nest of columns at the base.

But city planners didn’t like the look of it. (Of course.) Now architects have gone back to the drawing board on Parcel F. In a 2017 assessment, city planners suggested a tower that looks less stark and confrontational than previous designs:

As one of the four largest towers in the city, the Department recommends that the massing [i.e., shape of the building] be more gently and iconically-shaped. The current massing asymmetry and steps might work as a formal strategy if repeated; as they only occur once within the most visible height of the tower, they seem episodic and less architecturally intentional.

In a Wednesday press release, the Parcel F triumvirate included images of a new design that’s mostly a tall, sleek glass rectangle.

The estimated housing unit count is now at 170—reducing the original number by 20—on top of a 210-room hotel and 251,000 square feet of office space, with a relatively minor (9,000 feet) retail element on the street.

“The updated designs also provide a refined through-block pedestrian passageway from Howard to Natoma streets [and] a dramatic public elevator connection to the Transbay Transit Center Rooftop Park via a fifth-floor sky bridge,” according to Wednesday’s press release.

Cesar Pelli, the architect behind nearby Salesforce Tower, has combined with local HKS Architects on the new design. The Transbay Parcel F building, dubbed 542-550 Howard Street, is presently in the midst of environmental review. If completed as designed now, it would be San Francisco’s fourth tallest building at around 800 feet.