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SF industry notables and experts reveal 2018’s best new building projects

New projects, plans, and constructions that stood out this year

Photo by Caleb Pershan

Among the flurry of openings this year, few compared with the magnitude—or the plot twist—of the Transbay Transit Terminal and Salesforce Park, a $2.2-billion transportation center with a sprawling 5.4-acre rooftop park in the city’s newly christened East Cut arrondissement.

It lasted six seeks before closing after cracks were found in structural steel beams.


Other noteworthy albeit less tumultuous openings: 181 Fremont, a $850 million mixed-use tower that’s home to Instagram, multimillion homes, and millionaires living in the building’s top residential units; Salesforce Tower, which seems like it opened eons ago, but in fact started moving in workers in May; and an invigorated Civic Center Plaza.

To take a look at the year that was, we asked a handful of people in real estate, urban planning, media, architecture, and transit to offer their thoughts. Here are their favorite building openings or approved building projects of 2018.

John King (urban design critic, San Francisco Chronicle):

“The transit center, sigh, despite the rather rude plot twist. Even in limbo, it shows the potential of infrastructure as a tool to organize and energize districts. And people really, really, really liked the park.”

Laura Foote (executive director, YIMBY Action):

“I still have hope that 3333 California will transform a suburban office park to a beautiful mixed use community, adding desperately needed housing and thriving retail. But a nearby neighborhood association is doing everything it can to block the proposal. Their worst fearing is that the proposed ‘little village’ will be so cool it will draw people from other neighborhoods to visit Laurel Heights and therefore increase traffic!”

Inside the Transbay Transit Terminal.
Photo by Patricia Chang
Mike Isaac (technology reporter, New York Times):

“I mean, look: I am staunchly anti-Salesforce Spacedick Tower. But I do like the idea that they’re building a giant park in the middle of downtown. Super pro-greenery, and everything downtown right now is concrete and grey. So any efforts to build foliage into the urban environment, I’m a big proponent of.”

Allison Arieff (columnist, New York Times):

“The transformation of the Civic Center. Finally, this space is being put to great use! Which wouldn’t have happened without the tremendous effort and collaboration of so many people like Amy Cohen from the city’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, Neil Hrushowy from City Planning, Andrea Cochran, and Eric Rodenbeck from Stamen (and a hundred other people I’m leaving out, please forgive me). BiRite has a cafe there now; teens taking selfies with the public art, kids playing at the fabulous new playground, nearby workers enjoying their lunch. There are places to sit! It’ll be an ongoing project but it’s becoming the public space it always was meant to be.”

Brian Wiedenmeier (executive director, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition):

“The Upper Market Street protected bike lanes.”

Rebuilding of Santa Rosa’s Coffey Park neighborhood following the 2017 firestorm.
Photo by Carlos Chavarria
Beth Spotswood (digital editor, Alta Magazine; columnist, San Francisco Chronicle):

“The best construction projects are those of last year’s North Bay fire victims who were able to start rebuilding.”

Joe Eskenazi (managing editor and columnist, Mission Local) and Julian Mark (reporter, Mission Local):

“If you’re talking mere propositions, MEDA’s 12-story affordable condo tower proposed for 2205 Mission Street on top of a historic and derelict building. If built, it would be the tallest building in the Mission. If we’re talking about groundbreakings: MEDA’s 1296 Shotwell (senior housing) and Mission Housing 490 South Van Ness—both fully affordable.”

Richie Nakano (restaurant consultant):

“Well, it was Salesforce Park for about a few weeks.”

Jon de la Cruz (interior architecture and design, DLC-ID):

“The Manufacturing Foundry at 150 Hooper, part of a larger mixed use commercial campus creating more real estate for manufacturing businesses in SF that is functional, accessible, and affordable.”

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