When downtown redevelopment programs were just getting started in the early 1960s, the San Francisco produce market was a shambles of old buildings near the Ferry Building.
Today, the eight-acre site adjacent to the city's financial district and a stone's throw from San Francisco Bay is a bustling $100-million mixed-use development called Golden Gateway Commons that combines high-rise condominiums and low-rise residential and retail units in the shadow of the Transamerica Pyramid.
Two condo towers were completed 20 years ago, but the next stage of development was stalled when plans to move ahead with additional high-rise construction were vetoed by city planners concerned about blocking the views of San Francisco Bay from nearby Telegraph Hill.
Topped With Condominiums
Co-developers Perini Corp. and Vintage Properties were brought in to handle the low-rise project--a unique combination of retail and commercial properties on ground level topped with 155 expensive condominiums that offer views of some of San Francisco's best-known landmarks.
One of the few reminders of the area's former use is the original produce market entrance arch, which now stands at one edge of a park in the middle of the development.
Where produce workers in white aprons used to push carts overflowing with vegetables, there are now $750,000, three-bedroom condos with courtyard gardens, skylights and spiral staircases.
Downstairs from the residential units, which start at more than $250,000 for a 914-square-foot home, are a series of specialty shops and restaurants, including the highly regarded Square One, where former Chez Panisse chef Joyce Goldstein works mouth-watering magic in the kitchen.
Goldstein likes the location so much, she has decided to expand next door into the last available retail space in her building.
Sitting On Landfill
The redeveloped area, which used to sit underwater before a 60-foot seawall was built, is constructed on landfill just a stone's throw from the edge of the bay.
"We don't believe this project will ever be duplicated in San Francisco," said Joseph R. Seiger of Vintage Properties. "Where else are you going to find this much land? And it's so expensive to build here that you've got to build for the high-end market.
"You need redevelopment land with a triple-A location and there is no more redevelopment land with a triple-A location in this city," he said.
This is definitely an urban setting, but it is also a neighborhood with its own ambiance. Attractive planters filled with a mix of trees, seasonal flowers and shrubs are abundantly scattered throughout the living areas. The park is lushly landscaped and features a refreshing fountain.
To escape the relaxed pace, however, visitors and residents can use various crosswalks that connect Golden Gateway to the Embarcadero and its dozens of restaurants, shops and specialty stores.