In the works since 2012 and dependent upon the survival of San Francisco’s Central SoMa Plan, at least with respect to its new height limits, the application to proceed with the mass redevelopment of 12 contiguous parcels stretching from 400 Second to 665 Harrison Street has formally been submitted to Planning along with a detailed set of plans.

While the historic four-story building at 645 Harrison Street would survive, the other four buildings on the 2.4-acre site would be razed. And as proposed, two new towers would rise up to 350 feet in height upon the 400 Second and 657 Harrison Street lots, heights which neighbors are actively fighting to have reduced.

As designed by Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM), the 400 Second Street tower would yield 433,000 square feet of office space, with an additional 11,200 square feet of Production, Distribution and Repair (PDR); 6,000 square feet of retail; a basement garage for 187 cars and an enclosed “winter garden” POPOS fronting Second Street.

At the other end of the site, a residential tower designed by Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB) would yield 491 apartments over a 14,000-square-foot childcare facility, 1,700 square feet of retail space and a basement garage for 136 cars.

And atop the historic building at 645 Harrison Street, a modern addition designed by SOM would rise to a height of 200 feet and yield a new 469-room hotel while the first floor of the existing building would be converted into 24,000 square feet of retail space, configured as a “market hall,” with 76,000 square feet of office space and 33,000 square feet of PDR across the floors above.

In addition to the aforementioned winter garden fronting Second, the master plans for the “One Vassar” development include a proposed arcade on the other side of Perry, under the freeway overpass, with a few food kiosks and outdoor seating, as well as a 8,400-square-foot Hawthorne Street POPOS Plaza between the new market hall/hotel and residential tower, connecting Harrison and Perry.

And if the plans are approved and the height limits per San Francisco’s Central SoMa are upheld, the project team is now eyeing the spring of 2021 to start construction on the $420 million infill project, a development which will be phased and take a minimum of 45 months to complete.

Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Dan

    Please tell me what makes this unremarkable box at 645 Harrison “historic.”

    More height, please. It’s soma. It’s immediately adjacent to the highway overpass. Please. Build more housing and more office space.

    • Posted by Orland

      Personally, i think the classic commercial building at the corner of 2nd/Harrison (400 Second St ) deserves preservation. The tower can just have a smaller footprint.

    • Posted by Asdf

      I think the building looks cool, and also you can’t build massive floor plates like that under the current code. But big floorplates are also what tech companies want now, so I think there is advantage in keeping the current structure in place.

    • Posted by SocketSite

      Designed by H.C. Baumann and built in 1947, the A. Carlisle & Co. Building (a.k.a . 645 Harrison) was identified as a historic resource for its association with modern architecture in San Francisco.

  2. Posted by Hunter

    Would prefer if this plan had about 5x as much housing, but all of it is preferable to what exists there today. As usual, SOM turns out some pretty bland 1960s-looking architecture, though I appreciate the hotel’s vintage nod to the long gone Jack Tar. 😉

  3. Posted by Keenplanner

    I certainly wouldn’t want to live in a unit on the freeway side. Noise, particulate matter, ugly view, etc. Maybe the buildings should be split vertically with hermetically-sealed offices along the freeway and residences on the opposite side of the building.

    • Posted by Anonymous

      I always thought it made more sense to front the freeway with offices and have housing set back half a block or block, so I agree.

    • Posted by haighter

      then don’t rent a unit there … I’m sure the freeway-facing units are lower priced, just like units with any good/bad views rent for more/less…

  4. Posted by ughh

    that office building design is exceptionally banal. Terrible. No more generic boxy glass towers.

    • Posted by Dave (Seattle dude)

      Agreed. Absolutely awful designs. Future generations will look back and bemoan what has been done to the TTC area and what is now being done, or proposed to be done, to the Central SOMA.

      • Posted by JWS

        Future generations are far more likely to bemoan consistent attitudes like yours of “smaller! Less! Downsize it!”. Newsflash…we are paying way more for Way less while boomers are benefiting from decades of Prop 13 and rent control. Most of us want as much to be built as possible.

        • Posted by Dave (Seattle dude)

          My comment was about the less than mediocre design – yet again – with a Central SOMA project. If one is going to go taller in the area is it too much to ask for interesting/engaging projects in return?

  5. Posted by Metroliner

    The hotel component is exceptionally attractive and evokes thoughts of LA modern. Build it!

    • Posted by SocketSite

      And while not apparent, the faceted facade of the hotel addition is not panelized concrete as designed. Instead, it is intended to be a reflective metal and glass facade.

    • Posted by JWS

      I agree! It looks great. Interestingly enough, we are missing out on so many great exploding boutique hotel brands that are expanding in a lot of other cities, and part of the reason seems a lot are holding out for Central SOMA upzoning. We have The Hoxton/Ennismore looking to open up on Townsend, 1 Hotel (not Central SOMA but still) angling for the Chase Center, CitizenM looking to build by the new subway station at Moscone, etc. Virgin/Proper/Yotel all have homes and Moxy seems to be on the permanent ban list from Planning Commission’s kneejerk reactions to their branding, but wondering if/when we’ll see Nobu, RL, Thompson, EVEN, etc. All would fare very well in Central SOMA.

      • Posted by Hunter

        Blows my mind that SF still doesn’t have a Standard or Ace Hotel—they would do so well. My dream has always been that someone would flip the U.S. Bank building in the Mission into a swanky mid-century Palm Springs style hotel with a rooftop pool.

        • Posted by Anonymous

          What even occupies the upper floors of that building these days? Last I heard the top floor could be rented out for events, but other than that I have no idea how the building gets used.

          • Posted by Hunter

            No idea. It’s such an eyesore as the tallest thing around, and a cool hotel (with a mural on the blank walls) and better landscaping could really make the building pop, and give neighbors jobs/access to the inside.

        • Posted by JWS

          I agree. Standard is pickier about their locations and not expanding as much so I sort of get why they aren’t here even though they would make a killing and SF would really resonate with their typically excellent bar/restaurant programming. The Ace is crazier given how many cities they are in that one would assume would be less target destinations than SF (Pittsburgh, Portland, New Orleans, Seattle) so one must also assume that they would like to have a hotel in SF but just don’t want the headache of trying to open one.

          That being said, we have projects that are waiting in the wings for Central SOMA to go through at 645 Harrison, 744 Harrison, 350 2nd, 565-589 Bryant, 690 5th. While there are some Transbay hotels (likely to go more high-end) and some Union Square hotels (likely to go more 3-star), given the fact that 1 Hotel/The Hoxton/Virgin/Citizen M are clustering around Central SOMA/South Beach makes me feel that if a Standard/Ace was to come, they’d try to jump on one of those projects. Could be a very fun little cluster if, you know, SF actually felt like moving forward with it/anything.

          • Posted by Hunter

            Agreed. Would really just like to see all the surface parking downtown built up ASAP.

      • Posted by Anonymous

        What’s planning’s issue with Moxy?

        • Posted by JWS

          A hotel developer was trying to build a new hotel at the intersection of Columbus and Bay. The residents of the next-door subsidized housing came out in full force against it. The targeted brand was Moxy and the residents brought their slogans (a lot of “PLAY ON!” and “Do things here you wouldn’t do at home”) etc. And of course Moore/Richards/Melgar had a meltdown because it was “so insensitive to the neighbors” and while some like Hillis were OK with it, they rejected the project. By the time they had worked a deal with AC Hotels instead of Moxy, there was so much resentment from planning that it felt like they never gave the project a chance.

          More bewildering was Moore’s insistence that this was an improper location for hotels, despite literally being across the street from two hotels. In her words, locals “know” that Bay Street is the end of the hotel zone and that hotels on this side of Bay were inappropriate. Utterly preposterous even for her.

          In other words, classic SF “progressives” making value judgments and making zero progress on anything. And now we’re left with a one-story bike shop and 80 less hotel rooms in a city that is dying for new ones.

      • Posted by Brutalism's cool

        Is the Hoxton project still active? There’s not a lot of info about it.

  6. Posted by sf_historian

    645 Harrison is one of the city’s best examples of Streamline Moderne industrial architecture. It was called out as a potential landmark in the Central Soma Historic Context Statement.

  7. Posted by brooder

    I think this entirely disproportional. Besides being very ugly and nondescript with its generic glass facade it is just too high for being on the hill.

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