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Pier 29 developer backs out

Rehab of historic damaged building called too expensive, leaving the Port high and dry

A yellow streetcar rolling by the bulkhead building at Pier 29. Photo by Tony Webster/Shutterstock

In April of 2016, the San Francisco Port Commission unanimously approved a 15-year lease of the historic building at Pier 29 to become retail storefront selling coffee, spirits, and craft goods. City Hall gave its own green light in March of last year.

Today the space remains mostly vacant, and without a contractor in sight. On Thursday, the San Francisco Examiner reported that developer Jamestown (whose own San Francisco offices are less than a block away from the pier site) will back out of the project, saying that rehabbing the classic waterfront building would be too expensive for them to complete.

Via an emailed statement, Jamestown Vice President Remy Motenko tells Curbed SF:

Jamestown and the Port of San Francisco have collectively determined that the total infrastructure costs required to prepare the Pier 29 bulkhead into a leasable retail facility are infeasibly high. Following discussions with the Port, we have terminated our Exclusive Negotiation Agreement for Pier 29.

Pier 29 is used primarily for parking these days, and the building still bears the marks of a 2012 fire that damaged part of the structure.

Adam L Brinklow

Pier 29 interior, mostly parking use today.

Jamestown framed its idea to sell craft goods and beverages (including some from local San Francisco creators) as a shot in the arm for the neighborhood, which presently has little retail to cater to nearby offices and the cruise ship terminal next door.

The proposal drew some opposition at the time, particularly from Jon Golinger, the local lawyer most famous for leading the “No Wall On the Waterfront” campaign that torpedoed the 8 Washington development in 2014.

Golinger staged a revival of that bid to try and stymy Pier 29, dubbed “No Mall On the Waterfront.” Although activism failed to block the project from netting eventual approval, it now appears that the net result is the same anyway.

And the Port of San Francisco will have to take Pier 29 back to square one yet again.

[Update: Port Spokesperson Renee Martin tells Curbed SF via email, “The Port appreciates the efforts made by Jamestown to bring their vision to Pier 29. We look forward to working with Jamestown again if a future opportunity arises.

The Port is disappointed with this outcome, [...] However, the Port understands the difficult balancing act of developing attractive projects for the public that can also finance needed improvements to Port facilities.”

Martin says the Port will continue looking for uses for disused waterfront buildings.]