Postal Annex is Keystone of Mixed-Use Project : Rincon Center Combines Office, Housing in S.F.

Times Staff Writer

Rincon Center, an innovative development sited on a full city block of San Francisco’s downtown financial district is well under way, with the first phase already completed and the second phase scheduled for a mid-1989 opening.

The $200-million mixed-use project, developed by Perini Land & Development Co., signals the intent by the city’s Redevelopment Agency to encourage more development southward, from Market Street to the Mission district.

Located at the foot of Market Street, Rincon Center is bordered by Howard Street on the south, Steuart Street on the east, Spear Street on the West and Mission Street on the north, and encompasses an area of about 1 million square feet.


Jay C. Mancini, director of development for Rincon Center Associates, a California limited partnership led by Perini (the managing general partner), said, “It took a Socratic approach to resolve the complexities involved in properly integrating the mixed uses.” Rincon, he noted, is the largest overall complex currently being built in San Francisco and the only mixed-use project currently under development in that city.

“The now fashionable trend in some eastern cities of putting housing on top of office buildings can be confusing unless residential and commercial elements are properly defined,” Mancini said. “From the developer’s standpoint, Rincon has been our toughest intellectual challenge.”

Scott Johnson, partner in the firm of Johnson Fain & Pereira Associates described his complex Rincon Center design assignment as “a bit like a moon shot” requiring “seamless continuity and thematic identity,”

The project, a challenge for Johnson--whose formative years were spent in the Bay Area--required combining an existing U.S. Postal Annex building constructed in 1940 by Gilbert Stanley Underwood (now included in the U.S. Register of Historic Places), 75,000 square feet of retail area, 450,000 square feet of commercial office space and 320 units of high-rise rental apartments.

“It was important to consider the inherently regional character of San Francisco and to respect the independence and eclecticism of the city’s native fabric, that is as informal as it is scholarly--from its brown-shingled residential traditions of the early 20th century to the frontier classicism of its early commercial buildings,” Johnson said.

The result is a “Bay Area Beaux Arts” look based on a cruciform plan, that incorporates a procession of varying public places along an axis with a highly articulated profile of crested silhouettes and large inner plaza, added the architect, who also designed Fox Plaza, the prize-winning contemporary Moderne office building in Century City.


“In a project of such major proportions as Rincon Center, it becomes necessary to orient the user or newcomer to the site as to its residential, office or retail sectors,” Johnson said, noting as a size comparison, that the atrium within the central Post Office structure in phase one is the size of the nave of the Gothic cathedral at Chartres, in France.

One Rincon Center, the now restored post office building, contains a five-story glass-roofed atrium and colonnade. Inner offices on the second through the fourth floors open to balconies and terraces overlooking the atrium that is surrounded by shops and restaurants.

Two Rincon Center will incorporate a six-story office building as the base for twin curvilinear, 17-story apartment towers. A ground floor promenade will also have retail outlets and a central garden courtyard.

The distinctive lobby area of One Rincon Center showcases a commitment to public art by the developer that includes an 85-foot water sculpture created by Douglas Hollis and an obelisk sculpture by Joan Brown, both San Francisco artists.

Centerpiece of the historic lobby consists of 400 linear feet of carefully restored mural art by Anton Refregier that tell the story of Californa’s history--the largest WPA (Works Progress Administration) art project in the 1940s. Richard Haas, a foremost New York muralist, was commissioned to do an additional 400 feet of murals recording the more recent lore of northern California.

Tutor-Saliba/Perini Corp., a joint venture, is the general contractor; retail leasing is being handled by Urban Leasing; commercial leasing by TRI Commercial Brokerage and retail by Rincon Center Leasing.