By Meghan Hall
The San Francisco Planning Commission has approved a number of amendments that will allow major life sciences developer Alexandria Real Estate Equities to move forward with a long-planned mixed-use project in the Mission Bay neighborhood. At the end of November, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to update several redevelopment plan caps that would have prevented Alexandria from moving forward with its plans. The project site is one of the last remaining developable parcels in the district.
“We have been working on this Mission Bay project for quite some time,” explained Alexandria Executive Vice President Terezia Nemeth. “At Alexandria, we have been building lab buildings here and helping create a life sciences community that is quite vibrant and active. And I can say we are 100 percent fully-leased and have been for a number of years. So, this is a timely project to bring to you…It is particularly relevant given the condition we are living through with the virus, because it is exactly these companies that will help us get past this.”
Pasadena, Calif.-based Alexandria intends to construct its latest project at 1450 Owens Street, also known as Mission Bay South Lot 43, Parcel 7. There, the life sciences developer has planned 133,000 square feet of lab spaces, including conference rooms, and 49,999 square feet of office. 2,600 square feet of ground floor retail is also laid out in project documents. Due to a number of parking structures nearby, no parking has been planned for the development.
Designed by DGA, Iwamotoscott Architecture and Powell Architecture, the project’s design is heavily influenced by the non-rectilinear site, which is hemmed by a number of easements. The project team, according to Nemeth, wanted to avoid “big box” massing, and so the project’s shape is sheared and walls shift gently in and out. Secondary articulation, through the use of vertical mullions and a bronze lattice, seek to add additional interest.
“They worked very hard to create a building that had some liveliness to it, that presented itself in this future space as a very vibrant and interesting structure…” said Nemeth. “The shifting volumes you see creates more shadows and creates more interest.”
The base of the building will feature a public entry plaza and will be adjacent to a yet-to-be built public park and playing field.
However, in order to move forward with its plans, Alexandria needed a number of approvals from the City, including amending the Mission Bay South Redevelopment Plan to increase commercial and industrial leasable area from about 5.9 million to just over 6.1 million square feet. The City would also need to amend the Mission Bay South Design guidelines to increase the maximum allowable heights and floorplates to accommodate the development, as well as approve the basic design schematics.
The Mission Bay South Redevelopment Project Area is one of two Redevelopment Project Areas that make up Mission Bay, which covers 302 acres of land between the San Francisco Bay and Interstate-280. The two areas and respective development plans were established in 1998 and enable the development of just 6,400 housing units and 4.4 million square feet of new commercial space, the new UCSF research campus and medical center, 419,000 square feet of retail and 41 acres of public open space.
The Planning Commission was generally supportive of the amendments.
“I think it’s a really creative solution to this awkward parcel, and I support it,” stated Commissioner Sue Diamond.
Working off of a City Staff recommendation, which expressed that the project is appropriate for the location, the Planning Commission approved the amendments 7-0, thus allowing the development to move forward.
Alexandria is currently moving forward with the project on a speculative basis, according to City documents. Construction for the project is expected to begin within the next 18 months.