CFAH

680/690 Folsom

According to J.K. Dineen, TMG Partners’ renovation and redesign of 680/690 Folsom might never see the light of day through those proposed glass curtain walls. Instead, the buildings could be razed to make way for a Moscone Center expansion.

While city officials are not ready to discuss the project in detail, officials involved in the discussions say the new below-ground convention center space would connect with the 650,000-square- foot Moscone Center South underground across Third Street. The complex would replace two existing office buildings owned by developer TMG Partners and financial partner RREEF, 680 Folsom St. and 50 Hawthorne St., as well as the Moscone Parking Garage at 255 Third St. In addition to the convention center and replacement parking, the new project could feature “two or three towers” above a podium.

The new plans are simply “exploratory” at this point. No word on how the proposed Museum of Performance & Design would fit into the mix.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Rincon Hill Billy

    I don’t care if it’s a pile of rubble. They both gotta go.

  2. Posted by stucco-sux

    Noooooooo! Not the Moscone Garage. Its the last civilized place to park in that entire area.

  3. Posted by Minnarrez

    Too bad, I was hoping they would keep expanding west into the (for-sale) Chronicle properties.

  4. Posted by invented

    As much I would support development on this corner (especially if it were very tall) and there were multi-use including residential — in this day and age of virtual work & distributed offices — and the dawn of a new economy which affects the way we work & learn — is it really necessary to compete against LV to amass 50,000 people in one place for conventions? That seems as antiquated as the forthcoming obsolescence of amassing office workers in one office building. As if we collaborate in person any longer. Imo.

  5. Posted by Jeffrey W. Baker

    First, I must protest the “680 Folsom” address. This place is and always was “666 Folsom,” the headquarters of Satan himself.
    That out of the way, I want to direct readers to this hilarious April 2008 edition of the San Francisco Business Times. Just a year ago, those dolts over at the Biz Times were crowing about how wonderful this remodel was going to be, especially since 555 Mission was sure to be fully leased. Of course in retrospect we know now that 555 Mission is utterly vacant, but even back in 2008 it was blindingly obvious to everybody that the commercial market in SoMa was falling apart.
    http://sanfrancisco.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/stories/2008/04/14/story2.html

  6. Posted by JKD

    OK Jeffrey W. Baker. Perhaps it was “hilarious” and “blindingly obvious” to assume in April 2008 that 555 Mission St. would be leased by mid-2010. But it is not “utterly vacant.” A total of 202,000 square feet has been leased thus far. Tenants include CNA Insurance, DLA Piper, Sequoia, Gibson Dunn, Howorth.

  7. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “…is it really necessary to compete against LV to amass 50,000 people in one place for conventions?”
    I’m not so sure about “competing with Vegas” issue though it is convenient as well as cost effective to hold high-tech conferences in the SF bay area as it relieves about a quarter of the attendees from needing to travel. Hold a high tech event in Vegas and 99.99% of attendees will need to travel.
    Also I don’t feel that conventions and conferences are antiquated. Even with all of the great internet and telepresence technologies coming out that are heavily used, an annual meatspace event is a cheap way to stay connected and absorb a lot of information at once.
    Plus it is hard to get a quality buzz from your vendor’s open bar via webex.

  8. Posted by OneEyedMan

    Aren’t these the same arguments used for the Furniture Mart when Vegas built theirs and proceeded to cripple/close the SF Mart?

  9. Posted by tipster

    I agree that conventions have their place, especially when you want to see wares from lots of potential suppliers in a single space in a single day.
    However, some of those conventions there are too big. One of the many businesses I run involves packaged food, so I go to the Fancy Foods show to find new suppliers.
    The fancy foods show is Ginormous. The purpose of the show is to sample all the food from different suppliers, yet there are what seems like thousands of exhibitors, from all over the world, all pushing chocolate truffles, candy, cakes, gourmet salmon, and other food on you. It’s all you can eat at every exhibit. Piles of it, and no one cares how much of it you take, as long as you are trying it right there.
    At first, I thought I was in heaven, but I couldn’t even finish the exhibit and then felt sick for a week. I had to have eaten ten thousand calories, mostly sugar, in a single day. So this means it will soon get even bigger?
    I can’t wait to go back.

  10. Posted by nnona

    “…is it really necessary to compete against LV to amass 50,000 people in one place for conventions?”
    Yes, because tourism, which includes conventions, is crucial to the city’s economy.

  11. Posted by Jeffrey W. Baker

    JKD: thanks for cutting and pasting the list of tenants from Wikipedia. The space is leased, that’s great, but how much of it is offered up for sublease? Actual occupancy of that space is terrible. Just stand in front of the building at rush hour and see if anyone goes in the door.

  12. Posted by SF Monty Rez

    I work in the convention/tourism industry and to nnona’s point, in 2008 Moscone convention delegates spent a little over $1 billion in SF (all visitors, including leisure travelers, spent about $8.5 billion).
    Visitors produced about $527 million in general fund tax revenue for SF (hotel occupancy tax, city’s share of retail sales taxes, property taxes paid by hotels and other industry businesses, etc.)and supported 73,000 local jobs and 2+ billion in local payroll. There’s good info on a page at the San Francisco con/vis bureau’s web site – http://www.sfcvb.org/media/downloads/research/2008_spending.pdf.
    As far as this specific expansion scenario, it’s actually one of many being looked at by the city and industry … time will tell if it’s the right one or if any of them are (in which case SF will continue to lose market share, mostly to Vegas, San Diego and Chicago) … and btw, most if not all of the parking spaces in the Moscone garage would be replaced as part of the complex if this concept went forward.

  13. Posted by hugh

    Shame. 666 Folsom is kind of a cool example of Brutalism in SF. All the clunky prefab window bays. Tearing off the entire exterior seems kind of absurd anyway… sort of like covering a victorian in stucco (or faux stone) in the 40s. There seems to be a consensus that this building is awful. I think it’s cool. Maybe Moscone center should add vertically rather than sprawling all over SOMA! Its footprint is already too big.

  14. Posted by hugh

    Shame. 666 Folsom is kind of a cool example of Brutalism in SF. All the clunky prefab window bays. Tearing off the entire exterior seems kind of absurd anyway… sort of like covering a victorian in stucco (or faux stone) in the 40s. There seems to be a consensus that this building is awful. I think it’s cool. Maybe Moscone center should add vertically rather than sprawling all over SOMA! Its footprint is already too big.

  15. Posted by SF Monty Rez

    Vertical meeting and exhibit space has major limitations to convention and trade show planners. They prefer contiguous space on one level so they don’t have to split exhibitors into multiple buildings (which hurts exhibit space sales).
    That is already one of the major drawbacks of Moscone Center. Its largest contiguous space is 260,000 sf in Moscone South. By comparison, a planner can get 525,000 contiguous sf in San Diego’s convention center. To do that in SF, a planner would have to use all Moscone South, Moscone North (180,000 sf) and the ground-level exhibit space in Moscone West (100,000 sf).
    A group requiring that kind of space (and there are many conventions and trade shows that do) on average would produce 50,000 hotel room nights and $40 million in delegate spending in less than one week. And assuming both SF and SD had the same dates available, 9 times out of 10 a planner with those space needs would choose SD rather than spreading their show into 3 buildings in SF.

  16. Posted by Robert

    SF Monty,
    That’s interesting — I do remember convention halls being very large and flat, and thought that the experience was poor: little outdoor sunlight, and it took forever to get to the booths I was interested in.
    It would seem that for really large conventions, a taller building with several floors would be more efficient in terms of getting from booth A to booth B, and would also allow for more natural light. Assuming you had properly positioned escalators and had nice tall windows. I agree that spreading things around in different buildings is pain.

  17. Posted by SF Monty Rez

    Vertical space really isn’t a problem for meeting rooms, just exhibit space. Planners with groups small enough to fit Moscone West (<100,000 sf of exhibit space, they almost always opt for Moscone South or North (assuming same dates are available) rather than splitting exhibitors into 1st and 2nd floors.

  18. Posted by curmudgeon

    You can’t really compete with Las Vegas for sheer volume of space, and it would be a mistake to do so. SF is never going to have the kind of HUGE trade shows that go there. However, conventions are a major bonus for SF, and I would favor efforts to keep our standing high for the kind of major events that we are good at getting (big professional associations, etc). SF will always have an allure for these groups, and we should, if we can, provide the kind of space they need.
    That said, what SF has done better than almost any other city that I can think of is to create a convention district that is not a bleak convention-ville. Yerba Buena Gardens, the museums and performance spaces, and the poor misconceived Metreon have all done a lot to make the convention area a part of the city that residents and other tourists actually use. ANY new building should take this into account.
    We’re never going to be able to have the biggest flat floor unobstructed space in the world. But I’ve got to think that a lot of convention planners like what we’ve developed in the Moscone because it’s a rich environment that their attendees can actually enjoy. And despite a few notable misfires, it’s been getting better and better.

  19. Posted by NoeNeighbor

    @crum: I think you are right about the appeal of SF. And, while some may think that we all collaborate online, the fact is that people still really value meeting other people in person. In addition, there is a real value in being able to go to one place and knowing that everyone you want to see will be there also. Finally, conventions are great boondongles for the participants, so there will always be enthusiasm within an organization for participation in them — particularly if they are held in a place like SF (if by law, conventions had to be held in Provo Utah, we might see their populartiy dim).

  20. Posted by Dan

    I go to annual convention that alternates between major convention cities, and despite the distance from the East Coast, when the convention is in SF, it is always highly attended. One reason is that it is a much better experience than having to shuttle back and forth from hotels, as in Chicago and NYC, and that there is so much to do within walking distance from Moscone and Union Square.

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