By Meghan Hall
Since the Central Pacific Railroad’s Big Four built their mansions there, San Francisco’s Nob Hill has retained its status as one of the city’s most desirable and expensive neighborhoods, known for its high-end hotels, graceful mansions, art galleries and historic landmarks. The intersection of California and Powell marks the heart of the neighborhood and is home to two of its most-well known hotels: Stanford Court and the Fairmont Hotel. Nob Hill, however, and the all-important California-Powell intersection are about to get a new addition, the result of years of work. Called the Crescent, the 44-residence condominium development is slated to open early next year, and upon completion it will be Nob Hill’s first brand-new residential development in decades.
“The site was an old parking structure, and it was a really underutilized lot on top of Nob Hill, which is one of the most well-known neighborhoods in San Francisco, and of course the world,” explained Steve Buster, senior vice president of development for Grosvenor Americas, the project’s property owner and developer. “This location is incredible and nobody had been able to figure out how to redevelop the parcel, but we were able to do it. That is what attracted us to the opportunity, the ability to deliver the level of quality that Grosvenor does.”
As a company, Grosvenor is one of the world’s largest—and oldest—development companies; the firm’s beginnings can be traced back to estates in England in the 1600s. The developer is known for numerous iconic residential addresses, including several in San Francisco such as 288 Pacific and 1645 Pacific Avenue. Such an well-known site in Nob Hill surely deserved an equally known developer, and architect. Grosvenor collaborated with Robert A. M. Stern Architects (RAMSA) on Crescent, who was named to the AD100 Hall of Fame.
“This is our first multifamily residential building in San Francisco, so we are very excited about that,” said Daniel Lobitz, design partner at RAMSA. “We pride ourselves in doing buildings that are designed to be very specific to the location, that feels like they grow out of the architecture of the place and are very much buildings of that place. We’re not the kind of architects that do some sort of over-arching abstract concept that will be appropriate to be plopped down wherever we work.”
A special location and top-tier design team only amplified the importance of creating a project that not only fit well within the neighborhood but stood out against Nob Hill’s historic and iconic architecture.
“Of course San Francisco is one of the great cities of the world, and like many other great cities, it has its peculiarities and its specific features that really set it apart from any other place,” said Lobitz. “The architecture has evolved over time and is quite specific. The buildings climb up and down the hills as they go along, and are mostly the same height with flat roofs, bay windows. There’s a lot of stucco, stone and brick…Nob Hill is one of the most storied residential neighborhoods, so it’s quite beautiful.”
In looking around the neighborhood, RAMSA and Grosvenor wanted to create a building that honored the neighborhood’s history and classic architecture, but with a modern flair. The corner of the project site is carved away to create a big sweeping curve where an entry garden sits that serves as a private to the residents but a visual amenity to the neighborhood, Lobitz explained. A stucco façade and rusticated base, expansive bay windows and numerous setbacks, as well as secondary modulation through the use of balconies and patios, strive to create an elegant residential building, one that can hold its own opposite some of San Francisco’s most notable buildings.
“Our building is maybe more demure than some of the others, and it was important that we make something that felt bold enough to stand up to its neighbors,” said Lobitz. “Most of the facade is beautiful, warm stucco, and then these large, picture windows have travertine frames; it is very special and elegant detailing.”
Crescent will be accepting its first residents early in 2020, although according to Buster, pricing and a release schedule has not been determined. However, Buster believes that the units will be plenty popular, due to both its design and a lack of available new product in Nob Hill.
“I think it is so unique in its location, and it has its own story,” said Buster. “And, the finishes that are in this building are at the top, top of the line. I think that’s going to go well.”
Lobitz continued, “I think the building is very distinctive and has very much its own personality. It has been a pleasure working with Grosvenor; that was a big part of what attracted us to this project. They are a 500-year-old company that started out with the great estates of London …They have a long tradition of doing top-level development, and they approached this project with the same eye to quality.”