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"San Francisco Repurposes Old for the Future"

It has become as predictable as summer fog on Great Highway. If you’re planning a project in the red-hot mid-Market neighborhood, or reporting on it in the media, you’ve simply got to have one of those colorful F-line historic streetcars in the frame.

The New York Times is the latest bigfoot to jump on this, with this main photo (left, click to enlarge) on a long but very worthwhile story describing how the tech-driven mid-Market revival is focused on adaptive reuse of historic buildings, rather than on new campus-type construction as in Mission Bay (or Silicon Valley).

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen literally dozens of architectural renderings for proposed new developments all along Market Street, and almost every one has included an F-line streetcar — usually a PCC, but sometimes a Milan (invariably orange, though we have yellow and green ones too). The building that kicked off the mid-Market boom, the old Merchandise Mart owned by the Shorenstein Company (and now headquarters to Twitter) is just one example.

If you look at all the new, high-end condo and apartment developments on upper-Market, same deal: gotta have that streetcar in there, presumably because they think the streetcars add character and appeal to the development, along with a sense of place. Of course, the streetcar images also send an unmistakable signal to prospective tenants and buyers that there is efficient and fun public transportation right at the development’s front door.

For that matter, Muni’s parent, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) gives prominence to the historic streetcars in their public promotional and informational materials to a degree way out of proportion with their proportion of passengers carried on the system (though it’s true the F-line is indeed one of Muni’s busiest lines).

We think it’s great that both those who profit from the F-line’s presence (especially Market Street developers) and those who put the cars on the street (SFMTA) see the value of putting the streetcars front and center in their promotional material. In fact, if you only read the subhead of that New York Times story: “San Francisco Repurposes Old for the Future,” you’d be forgiven for thinking the story was about the streetcars, not the historic buildings.

But they do go together beautifully on mid-Market, don’t they?

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