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Mid Market scares off tenants at SF’s big empty mall

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6x6 still a zero for actual stores

The glass facade of a giant, empty, seven-story building in San Francisco, with criss-crossing escalators visible from the street. Photos by Brock Keeling

The towering, five-story, 250,000-square-foot mall at 950 Market Street dubbed 6x6 finished construction in 2016 after years of development, only to then sit completely empty without a single retail tenant.

Building staff keeps an eye on the place every day, but it’s something of a surreal spectacle as they’re the only people ever in the looming structure, which quickly developed a somewhat creepy vibe.

In November 2017, a source involved with the project told Curbed SF that the building was finally seeing some leasing activity and predicted two big tenants by year’s end. But presently the only activity there is a parking lot in the basement.

In March of 2018, as part of a bid to convert much of the interior space to office use, lawyer Daniel A. Frattin wrote to the San Francisco Planning Commission on behalf of building management and blamed high costs and Amazon influence for the state of the five-story fiasco:

The difficulty in finding retail tenants for the Property is largely a product of the changing retail economy over the last decade. The consensus of retail economists is that the growth of e-commerce means that retailers are relying less on physical retail stores.

High construction costs in San Francisco are further deterring potential retail occupants, with buildout costs 60 to 100 percent higher than anticipated based on retailer experiences in other national markets.

The changing state of commerce seems like the sort of thing people should consider before embarking on a tremendous designer retail development.

But the entitlements for 6x6 date to 2010 and the genesis of the project to years before that, when it perhaps seemed a slightly brighter horizon.

On Wednesday, the San Francisco Chronicle proposed a different source for the stillborn mall’s troubles: Mid Market itself.

Owner Chris Maguire tells the paper that “litter, panhandling, open drug use and a significant homeless population” in the neighborhood have scuttled some potential deals with clientele.

Although Maguire still puts most of the blame on the city’s soaring construction costs, he says the building’s Sixth Street and Market location and some of the less savory news incidents on nearby blocks have also scared off a few potential deals.

A leasing brochure from 2016 reveals that Maguire planned to market 6x6 as “an expansion of the existing Union Square retail destination,” telling potential tenants that the block is adjacent to “some of the most highly trafficked locations, including the prestigious Westfield San Francisco Centre and [...] world famous Powell Street Cable Car.”

All of which is true, of course. But also only half the story.