555 Washington: Proposed Residential Tower Rendering

The developers behind a proposed 38-story and 248-unit condo tower in the shadow of the Transamerica Pyramid are pushing forward. From the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the 555 Washington project:

The proposed new 336,585 gross square-foot 38-story, 390-foot-high project building plus 35-foot mechanical penthouse would contain about 248 residential units (133 one-bedroom units and 115 two-bedroom units) and amenities in about 331,640 square feet; 6,780 square feet of retail space; over 7,000 square feet of common and private open space plus additional open areas/public park space on Mark Twain Alley and Redwood Park in excess of 26,000; and 230 parking spaces in four subsurface levels.

A squatter office variant exists as well.

555 Washington: Residential versus Office design

From J.K. Dineen with respect to the “preferred” residential design:

In the revised design by San Francisco-based Heller Manus, 555 Washington St. would start with a rectangular base and twist a quarter-turn as it rises, morphing into a circle at the top. The design, with a footprint that is 30 percent less that the zoning allows, enables the developer to expand Redwood Park, the half-acre cluster of soaring redwoods at the northern edge of the financial district.

Under the proposed project, which requires a variance for height, the redwood grove would be expanded and ownership of the park would be transferred to the city. In addition, Mark Twain Alley, a dead-end that cuts from Sansome Street into the park, would be converted into a pedestrian piazza, with ground floor restaurants spilling out from the new condo tower and other buildings along the alley.

In the pipeline for 2012 assuming the stars align. And the completely uninspired 23-story code-compliant design we might get if they don’t:


Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by HappyRenter

    I like it. It reminds me of the leaning tower of Pisa.

  2. Posted by jessep

    I live at 845 Montgomery, as I’ve stated earlier, and I’d get a heads-on view of whatever goes up there..
    I like it 🙂
    very nice. I heard it would be circular.
    [Removed by Editor]

  3. Posted by Marty

    Perfect…but I fear I will hate the North Beach/ Teleraph Hill residents even more while this one goes toward approval.

  4. Posted by eddy

    I’m a fan. The city needs some modern buildings in downtown prime.

  5. Posted by dub dub

    It’s indeed a very pretty building (from the drawing). I’ve always liked that view down Columbus.

  6. Posted by flaneur

    I like how it doesn’t try to be the tallest on its block, and instead provides a transition between the scales of the Pyramid and the rest of the urban fabric.

  7. Posted by sf THE CITY

    Well it’s not a school so the neighbors just might let it get built as planned.

  8. Posted by flannie the fraud

    I like how every post contradicts my last one!

  9. Posted by jb

    Its a good contrasting design, while the transamerica pyramid often received accolades for being futuristic, this type of design won’t over shadow it and make the TA Pyramid look “dated” (or as much).

  10. Posted by CameronRex

    Ditto HappyRenter…thought of Pisa immediately. This is a very cool design. I’m going to start saving for the down payment…plus playing the lottery. Great location.

  11. Posted by Copernicus

    We have been hearing about Transamerica III for decades (Transamerica I being the Pyramid and II being 505 Sansome). In 1998-1999, III got caught up in the Prop M debacle where there was no room under the cap to develop an office building. So they changed gears to get on the residential boom. Now that residential development has slowed, does anyone really think this building will ever be built? The project is owned by a Dutch pension fund, Aegon, who is extremely conservative and slow moving. My bet is that Sai’s Restaurant, the business thath stands on the site currently, will be serving their great duck soup for another decade.

  12. Posted by jj

    Not sure about Pisa, but build another one next to it, and we’ll have a 3 Mile Island.

  13. Posted by yao

    i like it! very nice! really hope this gets built.

  14. Posted by jamie

    Looks very interesting in the rendering … haven’t said that about too many building designs outside of Millennium (not that I know anything about architecture – just gut reaction to the sight)

  15. Posted by lolcat_94123

    38 stories? That rendering looks barely half that.

  16. Posted by Ed

    The renderings give the appearance of a living sculpture. I love it!!

  17. Posted by Safe Sex

    Break out the super-jumbo condoms, people. The battle of the phalluses has commenced!

  18. Posted by anoanon

    I thought that too initially. There is a bit of an optical illusion happening in the design. The balconies are on every other floor. The dark band between each balcony represents another floor. Count the balconies and each dark band between and you get 38.

  19. Posted by snark17

    Fabulous building. Love it. The round shape is a nice contrast to the angles of the pyramid.

  20. Posted by snark17

    The shape is somewhat similar to the new Catholic cathedral in Oakland. If you are an architecture fan you should go see it because it is a super cool building.

  21. Posted by ex SF-er

    I like the circular version, but think the square version is ugly as sin.
    I would love to see this go up, even though I’m not optimisitic. That said, the fact that they even are proposing new structures is a good thing, right?
    I’d especially like to see the circular version go up since it reminds me of a way scaled-down version of the Fordham/Chicago Spire, which looks to be defunct now. (I weep for the Chicago Spire, the building I’ve most anticipated in my life).
    not sure if Calatrava started it, but twisting design is definitely the rage right now
    my only worry is what the exterior will consist of. will it be glass? some other building material?

  22. Posted by invented

    Wish it could soar another 10-15 floors and taper more gracefully than the blunt, slightly reactor-looking style. I think it would play off the pyramid better and be a more natural height for this base. It’s v interesting tho and obviously bows to the pyramid and who doesn’t love the preservation and expansion of the redwoods below?

  23. Posted by Grubber

    The biggest problem is the required demolition of 545 Sansome, at the corner of Sansome and Washington just behind the vietnamese restaurant. That building was built in 1930 and has some decent attributes plus it makes this whole thing completely cost prohibitive.

  24. Posted by EH

    Reminds me more of Calatrava’s “Turning Torso” in Sweden:

  25. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    The rounded alternative is nice and I certainly hope that boxy thing in the last rendering does not get built.
    (FYI – That parabolic “3 mile island” form being referred to above is not a reactor but rather a cooling tower. Those cooling towers appear on coal fired power plant sites too. Actual reactor buildings are less iconic.)

  26. Posted by Outsider

    While the TransAmerica pyramid has the Supersonic Concorde or F-104 Starfighter look from the ’50s and ’60s, The 555 Washington circular design has the nuclear reactor cooling tower look from the same era…

  27. Posted by REpornaddict

    Right by my favorite building in the city – no, not the Transamerica the Columbus building. Love love that slightly faded look it has.
    no to keen on the modern extension next to it though.
    reminded me on the modern add on to the Sagrada in Barca – which didn’t work in my opinion, and detracts not adds.

  28. Posted by jessep

    Does anyone know what will happen to that little Vietnamese place?
    Is that part of this change?

  29. Posted by Poor in PacHeights

    I’m with a previous post…the scale in the rendering is way off…it it were 38 stories it would be much taller in respect to the pyramid…the pyramid has 48 floors of office space…so it would hit the building at a much higher point!…sneaky way to get it approved!
    [Editor’s Note: The scale is fine (see the comment below re: ceiling heights). The preferred residential design is 38 stories and 390 feet while the office variant is only 26 stories but 357 feet.]

  30. Posted by Sneaky way to be dumb

    Residential ceiling heights are much lower than commercial building heights. The commercial version of this building is the same height but contains only 27 floors.

  31. Posted by Anna

    I love the design! Sign me up for a unit and build it, build it now!

  32. Posted by ANONNN

    If you build it, I will cum.
    (can I say that on here?)
    [Editor’s Note: Typically not and it did trip a flag, but in this case we’ll let it slide (and agree).]

  33. Posted by lr

    I hope they get to build this building. It seems like a cross between the Pyramid and the Gherkin
    It would be extra nice if it gets an up-scale grocery store as the commercial tenant… However, being that close to the Ferry Building/Farmer’s Market would probably suffice.

  34. Posted by sf

    Once again nimbys portray themselves as extremist emotional wrecks. I’d quit while you still have some grain of dignity left.

  35. Posted by flaneur

    What did we say?

  36. Posted by NoeNeighbor

    the rounded version would be very cool.

  37. Posted by Nils

    Manhattanization creeps ever northward…

  38. Posted by sf

    Northward? Don’t you mean eastward? Between 2 towers standing since 1970s? With one 10 feet away over 2 times the height? Nobody cares anymore.

  39. Posted by Louis

    the architects will be sued by Foster and Calatrava for taking (and dumbing down.)

  40. Posted by Brendan Aiello

    I love the HellerManus rendering [and past work]. I am also enjoying all the new additions to San Francisco’s skyline.

  41. Posted by jt

    Barf. It looks like a joke. Why must these guys always have to have so attention. Its just another building, housing no one can afford, that tries to say look at me look at me just like the people who will live there. Barf. Build it in LA, they get off on that sort of thing.

  42. Posted by Hank Pellissier

    The proposed 555 Washington structure is a beautiful building and I agree with a comment I saw somewhere, that it would look even better if it was twice as tall. I think the Pyramid is such a frightened hypocrite to not fully support it — is it afraid of competition because it is not as attractive? I hope this project succeeds and is not stymied by reactionary pols like Aaron Peskin.
    Hank Hyena – co-founder, Street Utopia

  43. Posted by Avid Reader

    Very cool project — glad the planning commission approved it! I watched the proceedings on SFGTV, and was pretty shocked by the strange behavior of a couple of the commissioners — Olague in particular — and hope she recovers. She has a lot of anger in her that seems to be about something other than planning. But she was overruled by cooler, calmer commissioners. I love the architecture, and I really love what the project will bring to that part of downtown. It will really help the community.

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