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Moscone Center expansion finished, open for business

Four years and $551 million later

A glass-enclosed pedestrian bridge leading into the second story of a broad building with lettering out front reading “Moscone Center.” Photo by Brock Keeling

Thursday marked the completion of the four-plus year Moscone Center expansion, a $551-million project that the city hopes will juice an additional $272 million into SF’s public coffers each year.

According to the San Francisco Travel Association, about 1,000 people attended a Thursday soiree in which Mayor London Breed cut the ribbon on the building and rededicated it to the memory of the late mayor George Moscone.

The building’s southern lobby is dedicated to former mayor Ed Lee, who died in 2017, under whose administration the Moscone overhaul began.

Lee announced the plan back in 2012.

“We’ve invested in Moscone Center to make improvements, but we know that’s not enough,” the late mayor said more than six years ago, announcing at the same time a “25-year master plan” for the building of which the expansion was just one element.

Whereas most major San Francisco construction projects have run afoul of delays and budget overruns as almost a matter of course (e.g., the Transbay Transit Center), delivery on Moscone Center was more or less in line with initial projections from when construction started four years ago. The final budget was not far off from the planned $500 million budget.

Mayor London Breed declares the revamped center open on Thursday.
Photo courtesy of SF Travel

The expansion added roughly 157,000 square feet to the three buildings, bumping up the center’s total usable space to nearly 1.4 million, including a “column-free ballroom” that’s nearly 50,000 square feet all on its own, plus 25,000 feet of “secure outdoor terraces” and more than 100,000 feet of “pre-function lobbies” designed to emphasize view of the city.

Most notably, a skybridge over Howard Street connects the two renovated buildings.

At one point the plan was to add more than 200,000 square feet to the center, but the city scaled back the design in 2014.

Photo by Brock Keeling

The SF Travel Association estimates that tourism brought more than $9 billion into the city in 2017 off of 25.5 million visitors, at the time blaming the relatively slow growth year over year on the closure of large swaths of Moscone during construction.

The 2018 tourism season also saw renewed concerns that the city’s homeless crisis hurt SF’s image as a destination for tourism and big money conventions, with complaints from hotel managers and downtown business groups.