Having faced some pushback from Planning early last year, the plans for a 61-story tower to rise up to 800 feet in height upon Transbay Parcel F at 542-550 Howard Street have been newly refined by the F4 Transbay Partners project team (which includes Hines, Urban Pacific Development and Pelli Clark Pelli) and submitted to the City for review.

The refined plans call for 170 condos to rise over a 210-room luxury hotel and 251,000 square feet of office space, with over 9,000 square feet of retail across the development’s lower floors and a sculpted through-block pedestrian passageway from Howard to Natoma.

The proposed tower, which would become the fourth tallest building in San Francisco, includes a fifth-floor sky bridge to the adjacent Transbay Transit Center rooftop park with access via a public elevator.

And as always, we’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

79 thoughts on “Refined Plans for a New 800-Foot-Tall Transbay Tower Revealed”
  1. I like the ground level design a ton. This tower is so so but overall good. I hope this breaks ground soon.

    Also wasn’t there going to be a bar or some otherwise accessible public space up top?

      1. Hmm, just from a rough eyeballing of the renderings, it looks like the rooftop garden at 555 Howard will line up pretty nicely with the tree’d setback on this Parcel F tower. That could actually be an interesting effect.

  2. Nice. Reminds me of 140 New Montgomery, and shows that not every new building needs to look like a damn crystal or biomorphic blob to be interesting and refined.

  3. Isn’t there a tower going up just a couple doors down to the northeast? I’d like to see them rendered together because this one is going to completely overshadow that one.

    1. Quotes the [booster] from Oakland. You and your tag team partner Dave always State inspiring words regarding SF.

      It appears these mix use properties are becoming popular. 181 and Oceanside are examples of multi use developments. This is a fantastic project and the architecture defines elegance and modernism. Nice addition to the skyline.

  4. Just looking at those pictures it’s stunning how uninteresting the architecture in the SF Financial Center really is. NYC, Chicago, Boston, Seattle have much more interesting newer buildings. Not a very interesting downtown in SF.

    1. You are just kidding right? Have you been to Manhattan? or any of those cities? You can get nice pictures from the right angles, but as you walk the Manhattan canyons it is pretty dreary.

      SF skyline is very photogenic especially from the Oakland side – you must be so exited about that 🙂

      1. He’d have nothing but praise for it if this exact same building was going up in downtown Oakland. This is an observable, years-long modus operandi.

        1. I’m just trying to be honest. I’ve criticized plenty of new designs in Oakland including a recent hotel proposal. I’ve been to Manhattan many times. I’ve been to Boston, and Chicago. I’m sure some will like this architecture. There is also much more interesting architecture going up in Asia. Why all the silos and boxes in SF? Where is the creativity?

          1. I don’t usually agree with this chap, but I really would like to see more adventurous architecture in SF a la Netherlands at least. Of the new buildings, I like 181 Fremont, the Jeanne Gang one, and the Oceanwide Center the most, since they show some whimsy.

          2. If by “honest” you mean completely inconsistent, then sure. I have, over the years, personally observed you give polar opposite opinions of buildings that are almost stylistically identical based solely on where they are located geographically.

  5. An absolutely uninspiring, bland building. Given this will be the last 800 foot tower built in SF for 3 or 4 decades if not forever you’d think an effort would be made for some distinction. That one reentering of the equally uninspiring Salesforce tower lined up close to this really captures how mediocre and off-putting SF’s skyline is. One glass box after another. SF’s skyline is among the least interesting in the nation. Do a google on skyscraper and click on images and see for yourself what really good stuff is being built in other cities. No way this design can be defended despite what some folks with rose colored glasses will say.

    1. It’s myopic to suggest this will be the last 800′ building built in SF. We didn’t have a proposal for a new tallest building until 2007. Prior to 2007, it was unthinkable that we would have a 1k’ tall building in 2017.

      Who knows what will come in a decade? Why cant we be positive?

    2. “Given this will be the last 800 foot tower built in SF for 3 or 4 decades if not forever you’d think an effort would be made for some distinction.”

      You really need to get out of the unsubstantiated nonsense business.

      Also, I assure you that you’re the only one who cares about your aesthetic opinions, especially when you’re going to make a ludicrous claim like “SF’s skyline is among the least interesting in the nation”. Have you ever been to literally any other major city in North America?

    3. I agree with you, Dave. I’m fascinated by this golden age of skyscraper design as evidenced in Chicago, in Asia and the Middle East. In my opinion, skyscrapers are public monuments and should be individual and distinctive. I’m not against distinctive classicism, but there’s a difference between that and tasteful banality. I’m proud of San Francisco’s dynamism and progressiveness, but it’s not reflected in its skyline architecture. Whatever department is getting in the way of true architectural creativity is constricting SF’s architectural legacy, and–of that–I am definitely not proud.

      1. skyscrapers represent the capitalist purpose of cities and SF fancies itself as being human scaled and concerned with people

        1. Fancies being the correct terminology here. Not building anywhere near to enough housing for their citizens to actually live in, and letting mentally ill people wallow in their own excrement and addiction on the streets. Unless you own a place on Telegraph Hill, SF doesn’t care about you. And I say this as a lifelong resident who loves a lot about San Francisco.

          1. So true. The city streets are filthy. Car break-ins are rampant as are home break-ins. The latest thing in my fairly nice neighborhood (Mt. Davidson) are alarms with cameras as crime has gotten worse here. People get the government, including planning department approving projects like this, they deserve. A reform contingent needs to be put in place at planning and throughout city agencies.

          2. So are you saying that this building will worsen crime in San Francisco, but if it was build in Oakland or Seattle it would have a positive impact on those locales?

          3. Dave, as usual I completely disagree with you and you misunderstood my point completely. I am saying in SF cared about people they would build housing for them. I have no problems whatsoever with the building that is being proposed in this case, and can’t wait to see it built.

            The lack of underbuilding, which forces young people to fork over astronomical amounts for rent and down payments that prior generations (who are completely protected via either rent control or Prop 13) never had to pay. The lack of appropriate building also assures that vast areas of SOMA are completely derelict and prone to filth and degradation.

          4. @JWS If SF cared about people they would put forward a Central SOMA plan that was people-sensitive. As in a reasonable jobs/housing balance. Not the 7:1 as proposed but maybe 2:1. We agree on that. BTW, the SOMA is not the only area prone to filth in the City. If the city really wants more housing why not drop the office and/or hotel component in this building in favor of all housing.

    4. Earlier this month, Dave was saying ‘x will be the last skyscraper built in SF in our lifetimes’. Now it’s the last in the next 30-40 years. lol

      Seriously, though, SF is booming and bursting. There will be plenty more after this. We should demand better designs than some of the stinkers in the past. This is a good first step.

  6. If this tower is south of the new transit center, it will put the new rooftop park in shadow most of the day..I thought planning restrictions exist to avoid that happening….as to its’ design it is just dreary…

    1. Yes, “dreary”… as opposed the the grey monoliths at Embarcadero Center, or 44 Montgomery, or the PG&E Building, or 50 California…

    2. I share your concern. Being at the SW corner of the transit center, it couldn’t be situated any worse insofar as its shadowing effect upon the rooftop park.

  7. Whenever a new high rise is approved in this city, you can be assured a segment of the local media and punditry will claim 1- it looks terrible; 2- it will be the “last” large building ever constructed; and 3- it should have been built in Seattle, Portland, Phoenix, or Boise, or Salt Lake City, or Anchorage instead. Basically anywhere but here.

    This is copy-and-paste architectural criticism.

    And it does not necessarily reflect the views of the public at-large. If you look at all the activity on Youtube, Snapchat, and Instagram, the new SoMa skyline is already very popular with visitors. Even without Park Tower, 705 Mission, Oceanwide Center, and this building at Parcel F. Or the beautiful elevated park that will link all of it together. Or the long awaited transit center itself.

  8. Same architecture firm as Salesforce Tower so of course there is a sibling dynamic set up between the two highrises. Will this have an illuminated crown as well or will it differ to its older brother?

    1. I miss the old SF skyline when the Transamerica Pyramid and Bank of America buildings dominated the skyline. That was an iconic skyline unique to San Francisco. Right now looking across the Bay from Oakland, it just doesn’t look like SF anymore.

      1. I disagree. When I’m in the East Bay driving towards SF, and I see the Salesforce Tower, I break a smile every time. It feels like SF has “made it” more to have a mega tower like that. SF has punched above its weight for a long time, I’m all for looking a little more the part.

      2. I miss the old Oakland skyline when you could actually see the Tribune Building, Bank of America Building, and City Hall from most places. That was a skyline unique to Oakland. Right now looking across the Bay from San Francisco, it just doesn’t look like Oakland anymore.

      3. But will Oakland still “look like Oakland” when the new developments you’re excited about get built? Cities change.

        1. Oakland’s iconic buildings such as the Tribune Tower, Kaiser Center, and City Hall will remain very visible. Most of the new buildings coming online will be built between the City Center Downtown and the Lake Merritt Financial District in the underdeveloped part of DTO east of Broadway. All the building are between 300ft and 400ft. No super tall skyscrapers to distort and unbalance the skyline.

      4. Totally disagree!

        I’m no huge fan of the transbay tower, I refuse to call it Salesforce Tower, but anyways, driving in on the 24 from the east bay is amazing now with the transbay tower, 181 (my fav) and the rincon hill towers on the left, and the old classics in the right.

        I can’t wait for the Oceanside dr claw complex to rise!

        Treasure island, the bridges, and surto, not to mention the bay, only make it the better.

        Then as the 24 curves toward DTO and I see MacArthur rising, and several DTO cranes up now, I feel a massive joy to live in, and be part of this unique spectacularly scenic urban area.

        If you can’t find awe in that you are like the richest man ever who is still not happy!

        1. It is a beautiful urban area. I wish we were one big happy family. Unfortunately Oakland has been treated horribly by the majority of the Bay Area for decades. There was no investment and redlining for decades. Finally after all of these years there is a lot of investment in Oakland. What changed?

          1. Oakland got more competent leadership and other locales became too expensive. That’s what changed. There was never any conspiracy against Oakland, as you have alleged for years, by the rest of the combined Bay Area.

          2. The demographics changed and all of a sudden investment started to flow to Oakland after decades of the city being redlined and ignored. The Bay Area really did Oakland wrong by shunning it for decades.

          3. Companies used to bypass Oakland for Walnut Creek and Pleasanton when relocating from SF. The Bay Area is not the progressive bastion it tries to portray. There was and still is a lot of anti-Oakland nonsense.

          4. E.Gonsalves, you might want to look into academic work on how places for corporate relocation are chosen, companies might be bypassing Oakland due to other factors besides “anti-Oakland nonsense”. It’s not entirely rational.

            If I recall correctly the studies I’ve read, the strongest predictor of where a corporation actually relocates is the personal preferences of incumbent executives.

          5. I think the anti-Oakland nonsense would keep potential corporations from locating there. Who wants to move to a place where the locals already have a strong dislike for what you do?

          6. Oakland has the lowest CBD vacancy rate in the United States. Oakland has a lower office vacancy rate than SF. Oakland is more centrally located, has better weather, is the nexus of the BART and freeway system, and is the capital of the huge 2.6 million resident East Bay. Oakland is finally booming after years of being shunned and redlined due to prejudices and stereotypes from bankers, developers. and CEOs. To this day there are still people in SF and in the Bay Area attempting to control the narrative and misrepresent Oakland. Just take a look what wealthy SF resident Peter Theil called Oakland and the East Bay. He called booming Oakland part of “a failed state.” This is the type of ignorance Oakland has had to overcome for decades.

  9. “As one of the four largest towers in the city, the Department recommends that the massing [i.e., shape of the building] be more gently and iconically-shaped. The current massing asymmetry and steps might work as a formal strategy if repeated; as they only occur once within the most visible height of the tower, they seem episodic and less architecturally intentional.”

    Am I the only one who thinks the new design doesn’t address this at all?

    1. You are not alone – I was wondering that too. The change from the original design is minimal. They really need to go back to the drawing boards and start over. SF deserves better than this.

  10. i still wish we had a real starchitect, iconic supertall in this transbay project. it seems the most thought and creativity was put into the 400 ft towers that won’t be visible next to all the 600-1000 ft tall buildings. really wish they got jeanne gang to do one of the real towers.

  11. I like it a lot. It reminds me of streamline Deco and the skyscrapers of an earlier era. Hope they build it soon.

    And the naysaying chorus of jealous critics from Oakland is really getting annoying.

  12. 1 – Clean design
    2 – Interesting, the window separations are horizontal on the bottom half, vertical on the top half of the building
    3 – Looks like I may lose my view of 181 Fremont St. from the Civic Center, my favorite new sky scraper.
    4 – The new super tall buildings will make the Salesforce building look less aggressive on the skyline

  13. This building and the emerging skyline are ok. Be nice to be able to say they were spectacular – I can say I am very happy all this development is moving forward and who knows how it may all evolve. I do sometimes wish we had our own modern day Haussmann empowered to get cracking on much of the rest of the city.

  14. Reasonable design on the upper area. How is the lower part designed structurally given this is area infill. I’m not an engineer but the lower part looks ungrounded because of the asymmetric design, ie not supported from all sides. At least the Salesforce tower has a feel of solidness in a way of being a spire deeply embedded into the ground.

  15. Love the look of this. Love the pedestrian area…. but not the whale rib-cage. Maybe if it was chrome or clear acrylic and lighted and not mustard yellow. This whole area is going to be wonderful when done.

  16. Just read on SFGate that salesforce will lease the office part of the building – perhaps Socketsite has an update?

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