While the approval process for a 36-story tower designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, in collaboration with Mark Cavagnero Associates, to rise up to 405-feet in height at 555 Howard Street was, in fact, fast-tracked by Planning, and the development was approved back in early 2017, the project has yet to break ground.

Of course, in order to break ground, the detailed blueprints for an approved project need to be checked by numerous different entities, including the city’s Fire Department and structural engineers, and an actual building permit needs to be approved and issued, perhaps with a heightened level of scrutiny considering the attention another nearby tower has received over the past couple of years.

And while the aforementioned engineers have yet to give their final approval, San Francisco’s Fire Department and Public Utilities Commission have recently signed off on a thrice revised set of plans and a building permit could soon, at least relatively, be approved along with a demolition permit to clear the site for construction.

Championed by Pacific Eagle Holdings and SKS Partners, the 555 Howard Street tower is slated to yield 69 residential condos over a 237-room luxury hotel, with a quadruple height lobby fronting Howard, a ground floor restaurant, a sky bar on its 36th floor and a rooftop public open space above.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Kraus

    A very nice project.
    It’s great that the rooftop open space is open to the public.

  2. Posted by Rob Silver

    Why does every new tower built have to be a blue glass box? The soma neighborhood will surely have the most bland uninspired skyline in the us when all these projects wrap up. When the architect sat down to design this building did he even notice every building surrounding this site already are blue glass boxes. Seriously, they don’t want to take a risk or are the just building this as cheap as possible. No point to have detailed renderings in the future, just tell us the building height, I can guess the rest…

    • Posted by Alex

      Maybe because if the architects experimented with anything different, San Francisco Planning will provide many reasons as to why it wouldn’t match with the neighborhood? Also because the demand for floor to ceiling windows is high for the financial district crowd whom wants to maximize city views?

    • Posted by Martin

      Anything more interesting gets shot down, so they probably err on the conservative side rather than creative side.

    • Posted by Jim

      What do you know about day-lighting and energy performance codes?

      • Posted by Martin

        Well, there’s 181 Fremont and then there’s this. 🙂

    • Posted by Anonymous

      I’ll take blue glass boxes over the god-awful concrete monoliths that the 60s and 70s gave us.

      • Posted by Brian M

        A-F’ing men!

        I like glass. 🙂 At least it is not beige stucco.

    • Posted by Orland

      At least, it’s not another silo.

    • Posted by pal

      So agree – I want adventurous world-class buildings like the Triton one in London! Saitowitz should run some kind of commission to oversee this.

    • Posted by JS

      So cell phones work while still minimizing solar gain to improve the building energy efficiency. Otherwise you need to install cellular antennas throughout the interior of the building.

  3. Posted by blue glass is the new stucco

    ^Agreed. More variety, masonry, less “iMac” towers please.

  4. Posted by Alex

    Agreed, this provides SF with some housing, a new hotel, and a nice public space with a great view of the city and the Bay Bridge. Very excited to have this added to our city.

  5. Posted by Futurist

    Having just returned from London and Paris, where the new architecture is daring, almost shockingly fresh and innovative on their skylines, I simply see more boring and safe architecture being built in San Francisco all the time.

    San Francisco is so conservative, architecturally.

    • Posted by Anonymous

      The overwhelming majority of tall towers in London and Paris look like absolute garbage IMO.

      • Posted by Big D

        Couldn’t agree more.

      • Posted by JWS

        While I am partial to the Shard, I dislike many of the newer London buildings. Tokyo has some amazing 4-8 rise buildings, but those would never make it out of DRs and the Planning Comission so I understand why they aren’t being built.

    • Posted by Clever Guy

      London just erected the biggest piece of $%^$ ever (the walkie talkie).

      • Posted by Futurist

        It’s actually bold and interesting, yes, a little “weird” but it grows on you. Amazing public spaces and incredible sky garden open to the public.

  6. Posted by Orland

    Is that a variant description for the “Chesse Grater” or yet another misshapen form dumped on the Thames?

    • Posted by Futurist

      No, the so called “Cheese Grater”, actually the Leadenhall Building is an amazing piece of architecture by Renzo Piano with an open, soaring public lobby and boldly expressed structure and systems on the exterior. Nothing in SF even comes close.

      • Posted by Futurist

        My mistake: The Leadenhall Building was designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour.

  7. Posted by Jim

    Anything out of the ordinary in SF gets shot down by neighbors and the NIMBYs at the Planning Department. Note the comment on Rafael Vinoly’s new London “walkie talkie” building above. From the London press, the armchair design critics in London hate Vignoly’s building too, but, hate it or love it, they are not the arbiters of what gets built, as they are in SF. The law is.

    SF does have one very fine Vinoly building, the Ray and Dagmar Dolby Regeneration Medicine Building at UCSF Parnassus. It only got built because (1) it is a State institution, not regulated by the City, and (2) it is hidden from most viewpoints by the horrible older UCSF buildings.

    • Posted by Hi

      They also designed a UCSF building in Mission Bay, across from the new Chase Center (from your link)

  8. Posted by pal

    Cool, but when will we get some more creative stuff? The Federal Bldg, Twisty Tower, etc are good starts, but there are so many amazing architects – SF of all places should not get glass box after glass box. Please inspire us!

    • Posted by Brian M

      The Federal Building is one of the most oppressive structures of the past few decades. It literally looks like it will start emitting laser beams to incinerate the citizenry. The plaza is windswept and the café is pathetic. To go inside one must subject oneself to awful security theater.

      The architect is a dour Maoist who hates the American government (understandably so, but still). It think it is hilarious trendy Modernist Compound thinking stuck the city with this building.

  9. Posted by MyOddCommentHandle

    i think i heard someone’s monocle fall on the ground.

  10. Posted by RGBiv

    Blue, boxy Kit-Kat bar

  11. Posted by Jacopo

    I don’t remember London or Paris to have major earthquake plus let’s face it European taste on design is different they are willing to invest more. The project is never just the architect is the architect the client and the budget (and cost in sf are crazy already for normal shape) add a very difficult and vocal planning that is not very open to experimentation blame the fact that it looks plain on Renzo Piano alone is unfair.

    It’s true star architects have a stronger voice to push extreme and interesting design but the budget ultimately is driver and client sensibility is the key.

  12. Posted by Ncyder

    Great buildings need support on many facets, Our local environment, policies and procedures while intended to benefit have created more resistance than support.

  13. Posted by Ricky

    I will bet my life savings that this project does not move forward if Pacific Eagle Holdings remains as the primary funding source and Renzo remains the primary architect.

    If i remember correctly – the fist iteration of the design had 5 levels (from grade) of structural core with no columns or other support at the perimeter – then 30+ floors of floor plate overhanging that. Needless to say, columns were added.

  14. Posted by Paul

    Uh, what about Oceanwide Center’s diamond shaped tower? That’s the opposite of bland and probably the most anticipated tower for me coming to the city in the next couple years.

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