555 Howard Street Site

Plans to raze the two two-story buildings at 547 and 555 Howard Street and build a 36-story tower rising up to 380-feet in height across the site have been drafted and submitted to San Francisco’s Planning Department.  And as proposed, the tower would be cantilevered over the adjacent two-story building occupied by The Melt at 557 Howard as well.

555 Howard Massing

The designs for the 555 Howard Street project, as drafted by SCB for SKS Partners and Pacific Eagle Holdings, includes 127 condos over a 223-room hotel and 6,000 square feet of retail space, with an entrance to an underground garage for 76 cars by way of Tehama Street.

The new ramp for the Transbay Transit Center would run adjacent to the building.  And yes, the Eagle Club indoor golf range would be razed.

While planning for the project is just getting underway, the team has applied and been accepted for priority processing as a “green” development.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Alex

    Since the Parcel F is across the street and expected to rise to 750 ft I feel like this development should at least go up to 500 ft.

  2. Posted by Sierrajeff

    The height of those Foundry Square buildings looks dumber and dumber with each newly announced project. I recently met people who work in those buildings, and they said even the tenants shake their heads at how the project was built (and at their ever-diminishing views).

    • Posted by Futurist

      No. I disagree. Why exactly it is “dumber and dumber”?

      What is wrong with the modulation and variation of height in ANY downtown urban plan? Nothing, actually. Not every building needs to be a high rise and not every site needs to be filled with a building as big as their neighbor.

      And what’s with this “ever diminishing views” comment? There are a variety of views from all floors in all directions. It’s just that they don’t all contain views clear to Nevada. Nor do they have to. I don’t believe those buildings have any lack of tenants.

      • Posted by j_blu

        Agreed – the modulation is ever more valued as everything else rises to the sky. What’s more, this guarantees sunlight what I consider to be the most successful POPOS in San Francisco, the formal void that is the “Square” in the project.

      • Posted by Sierrajeff

        They do *not* have views in every direction – even with what’s been built already, their views are cut off – and with what’s under construction and on the drawing board, they are increasingly going to be in an urban sinkhole. And don’t jump down my throat over it, I’m just reporting what was told to me by *actual tenants in those buildings*.

        The fact that they don’t have a “lack of tenants”, in this red-hot leasing market, is meaningless. There are 3rd floor walkups in 100-year-old brick buildings that do not have a lack of tenants. However, I’m willing to bet good money that when the next downturn comes, these buildings lose value a lot more quickly than their high-rise neighbors.

    • Posted by c_q

      I think one of the four was originally proposed to be 30-40 stories or so, but that obviously didn’t happen. I don’t think they were ever intended as ‘view’ buildings, as there are plenty of taller buildings nearby built before them. And after that tall building spree of the 70’s and 80’s there was a lack of appetite for more tall buildings, so that probably is reflected in the height you see built out

      • Posted by BTinSF

        Shadows, shadows, shadow on a PARK. That’s a NO NO.

    • Posted by Orland

      Whatever happened to the idea of a open canopy over the 1st/Howard intersection now that all four corner buildings are complete?

    • Posted by Ivoryhouse

      I work in the Foundry Square (let’s not forget the four were for Sun Micro way back in 2001 and were never occupied as purposed). Never any views, and early starts means blinds are pulled down anyway!

      • Posted by Futurist

        So let me get this right: there are WINDOWS but “never any views”.

        How exactly does that work?

    • Posted by BTinSF

      Every time somebody says this – that Foundry Square is “dumb” for being too short – I have to remind that the developer was praised and thanked by the city for designing something that would not cast the future Transbay Transit Center rooftop park into perpetual shadow. People here and at other such sites are either too young or have memories too short to remember the 1990s when FS was designed and built but its lack of height was very purposeful and probably with good reason. As things are, several proposed towers WILL cast shadows on the park and I’m not sure how that is permissible but because FS is short, a considerable part will get what sun San Francisco can provide.

      • Posted by anon

        Most of FS was built before the Transit Center rooftop park idea was even floated…that didn’t even happen until the Transbay Tower competition in 2007. Foundry Square’s first phase was completed in 2003. What are you reminding people of?

    • Posted by John

      This comment is nonsensical. Let’s say that all of the Foundry Square buildings were 30 or 40 stories instead of 7-8 stories. Surrounding development would still have the same effect on tenants in the first 7-8 floors. The “impact” on these tenants is not because their buildings aren’t taller. If there is an impact, it is because of the floor they are on, which could be the same even if their building happened to be 30-40 stories.

      Compare this situation to the Millennium, for example. It is what, 55 stories? One year from now, all southern views from Millennium will be completely blocked by 181 Fremont, and all western views will be blocked by Salesforce Tower. So height alone doesn’t help preserve views. Same thing with the south tower of the Metropolitan on First Street – their unfettered views of the Bay Bridge are now blocked by the new construction that is about 100 feet away!

  3. Posted by Wai Yip Tung

    How does a cantilevered high rise works? Wouldn’t it preferable to knock down the two story building and build from the ground? This sounds more stable to me.

  4. Posted by BobN

    I’m almost afraid to ask: why is it being cantilevered over the two-story building?

  5. Posted by c_q

    what is so special about the melt building that they need to cantilever over it? I’m assuming this is either some tactic to force a sale (as in, the melt building owners don’t want to sell and this is a way to go around that) or there is some super-historic factor of that building

    • Posted by david m

      you can’t cantilever over a building you don’t own. it’s a way to preserve fine-grained streetscape but still build the building you want, shifting square footage from the 2-story site over to the bigger project to stay in line with the FAR ratio for the site.

      • Posted by Sierrajeff

        AFAIK you can cantilever over anything, as long as you have an air rights easement.

        • Posted by Bananas

          But to david’s point – you can’t build over someones property as a tactic to get them to sell – they have to be on board with the plan.

  6. Posted by Brian M

    we need to preserve Happyness. Isn’t that the only worthwhile goal!

    A ballot measure, anyone?

  7. Posted by Wallace

    I work at Foundry Square – they are a fantastic set of buildings. They were designed well before the Transbay Transit Center began re-enlivening this part of SOMA, and thus well before developers received the go-ahead with height limits upward of 300 feet. What is not fantastic is this City’s obsession with hiring mediocre firms such as SCB to design for sites that have the potential to host spectacular buildings. Please, San Francisco, re-evaluate who you hire to design our built environment.

    • Posted by Futurist

      Yes, well said. I know of several architects who had large firms there. They may still be there. The large floor plates were great for open office work spaces.

  8. Posted by Jim

    Sorry, but the Foundry Square buildings are a dumb anomaly in the city. The site was in the General Plan for, I believe, 550′. This was a hard-fought height at the time, realizing that it was at a key regional transportation location. At any rate, it was the highest height limits in the city, because of its location right next to the then-proposed Transbay Terminal. Unfortunately, the developer was a suburban office builder, who really missed the boat. They wanted a huge amount of parking, which fortunately, the City did not allow. This was at a time when the developer said, gee, dot-coms like low rise brick buildings…lets do some big floor plate low rise buildings. Today of course, we know tech companies like big floor plates, and who doesn’t like big floor plate old brick buildings (not making those anymore), but intact now the downtown high rises are filled with tech companies. Just strip out the acoustical ceilings and leave out the carpet, and you’ve got the industrial feel. duh.

    • Posted by Wallace

      Show me an example of better architectural detailing and more interesting roof-lines for any building in the City designed in 1992. Then we can actually have a debate.

      • Posted by Wallace

        Sorry, I need to correct myself – the original master-plan was in 1999. Same argument stands, however.

      • Posted by Futurist

        Exactly. The Foundry Square buildings are really a unique “small scale” development with nice, humane open spaces at each corner, very good materials and detailing, and quite frankly a welcome respite from the high rises now in the area and in the near future.

    • Posted by BTinSF

      You are right . . . Legally it could have been taller. But nobody in Planning or city government wanted it to be by the time it was designed and built because by then the TransBay rooftop was in the works (as it hadn’t been when the old plan was put into place).

  9. Posted by seriously

    WHY IS IT BEING CANTILEVERED OVER THE MELT?? Could they at the very least preserve the façade and keep the “building” as a separate retail space? It would be structurally safer (than the old building) and have better fire systems, etc. That huge cantilever is going to add so much expense to this tower. It’s already being built on infill, it’s not going to be cheap.

    • Posted by cfb

      They can build it how they want, it’s their money…besides, this way the tower gets built and one of the existing businesses stays. Win-win. I have a feeling the Engineers can figure it out too…or do you know something they don’t? And it would actually be really cool in my opinion, to see a skyscraper built over an old lowrise like that.

      • Posted by Futurist

        It’s not terribly unusual: happens quite often in Manhattan. The developer buys air rights over the adjacent building. It’s not a very difficult engineering task either.

        • Posted by Wai Yip Tung

          Isn’t it bad for the business to open in a construction site with work going on around and them and over their head? Isn’t it bad for the developer to have to tip toe around the business and customers? I think it would have to be some extraordinary circumstance to force them to make this choice.

          • Posted by Futurist

            I would guess that you have never been to Manhattan and observed all the high rise construction going on. Nobody “tip toes” about it.

  10. Posted by E

    They did buy 557 Howard with the other two buildings. The Melt has a 10 year lease with lots of money invested. I’m sure they’re negotiating with the Melt to terminate the lease, but since they can’t guarantee that outcome, they’re wise to start the planning process with a design that assumes the Melt stays.

  11. Posted by Adam

    Those low-rise office buildings will get a little extra light and air into the nice new Park that will be built above the Transit Center- something I am sure nobody will complain about moving forward, as they tout future access to said park in their sales copy.

  12. Posted by Dave

    Foundry Square is a great corner and will become moreso as so much around it is walled in. They were going for large floor plates hoping to get tech companies. Don’t know how tht worked but it a nice set of buildings.

    What does the Residential – Bonus mean?

    This a ways off and may be coming online during a down cycle so we’ll see how it plays out.

    This would be the closest hotel to the transit center?

  13. Posted by tyler

    i wish we could teleport buildings around…. you guys have so many cool buildings and you just demo them. I’d take them. indianapolis loves leveling everything and we have almost no remotely historic buildings left.

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