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The Presidio starts building James Corner-designed parkland over highway tunnels

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The 14-acre green space will connect people from Crissy Field to the Presidio

Before and after rendering of the Presidio Tunnel Tops.
Images and renderings by Landslides Aerial Photography

On Thursday, after a decade of waiting, the Presidio touched off its plan to build a sprawling 14-acre park directly atop the Presidio Parkway tunnels, a $118 million project that will—fingers crossed—open to the public in two years.

The trust started the design phase of the Tunnel Tops project in 2014. James Corner Field Operations, the SF branch of the New York-based firm that designed the High Line—a 23-block park built on what used to be an elevated train overpass—will helm the project.

Upon completion, a new stretch of pedestrian-accessible land will rest on top of the Presidio Parkway tunnels. The landscaping will include gardens with native vegetation, connecting pathways, scenic overlooks, a campfire circle, picnic areas, and a three-acre play area.

The Presidio touts the Tunnel Tops as a way to reclaim the highway space for park goers, who will soon be able to walk from Crissy Field to the Presidio, without affecting auto access to the Golden Gate Bridge and beyond.

According to the Presidio Trust, the Tunnel Tops plan harkens back to the days after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which eventually led to the removal of the unsightly and obstructive overpasses connecting to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Most recently, an old Burger King was removed to make way for the new project. And in August, 50,000 cubic tons of dirt came to the site in preparation for the long process of burying the tunnels.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other head honchos gathered at the Presidio for a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday—literally shoveling dirt onto the site, rather than the traditional, ceremonial groundbreaking for a large civic project—initiating the construction after years of planning.

The project timeline called for an end to design in 2018 and the beginning of construction this year. If all goes to the schedule, the public will access the new green space in 2021.

The Presidio Steps help visitors navigate the elevation change of the steep bluff. This area is made up of lawn seating steps, an open plaza with a large informal platform, and a natural series of viewing terraces.
The Campfire Circle sits at the edge of the Main Parade Ground and adjacent to the GatewayPlaza. It will come with a central fire pit and seating. The Campfire Circle can support tree growth and larger shrubs, since it is on solid land instead of on top of the tunnel structure.
The Gateway Plaza will host the newly renovated visitor center and transit center, the latter of which serves as the primary method for visitors to arrive at the Presidio via public transit. A diagonal line of movement will allow visitors to walk from the Presidio’s Main Parade Ground across the Tunnel Tops through the Gateway Plaza and eventually down to the Youth Campus at Mason Street.
The Outpost is a children’s playground and features climbing, swinging, sliding, crawling structures.