Hines’ Vision for Former PG&E HQ in San Francisco Comes into Focus

Hines, Atlas Block Campus, San Francisco, Pickard Chilton, Foster + Partners, PWP Landscape, Kendall/Heaton, City Park, 200 Mission Street, SoMa, 50 Main Street
Image courtesy of Hines, Pickard Chilton, Foster + Partners, PWP Landscape Architecture, Kendall/Heaton

By Jack Stubbs

Global real estate investment, development and management firm Hines, founded in 1957 and now one of the largest real estate investment managers in the world, is contributing to the evolution of a large-scale project in San Francisco’s Bay Area at the site of PG&E’s former headquarters. 

Earlier this year, progress was made with regard to Hines’ plans for a large-scale development named Atlas Block, some of the components of which could set a notable benchmark in San Francisco.

In February 2022, building permits were filed for the reskinning and renovation of 77 Beale Street at an estimated cost of $105 million. The project site is set to be renamed 200 Mission Street and become part of Atlas Block Campus in SoMa. This mixed-use campus includes the unique Foster + Partners-designed facade for 50 Main Street, the soon-to-be second tallest building in the Bay Area.

More generally, the Atlas Block campus – a collaborative effort between New Haven, CT-based Pickard Chilton, London-headquartered Foster + Partners, and Berkeley-based landscape architect PWP Landscape and Houston-based Kendall/Heaton – has a unique composition. The endeavor comprises four distinct components: City Park (led by PWP Landscape Architecture), 200 Mission Street (currently 77 Beale) and Historic Marketplace, all of which are led by Packard Chilton, and 50 Main Street, spearheaded by Foster + Partners.

Hines’ contribution will add 1.6 million square feet of commercial space, just under one million square feet of residential square footage (comprising 808 units), 37,400 square feet of retail and parking provided for 683 cars and 1,333 bicycles, according to the project plans submitted to the city. 

In terms of the broader redevelopment objectives, the reimagining scheme for Atlas Block entails a rather complex reconfiguration of the overall square footage allocation – of the existing versus proposed space – for commercial, retail, residential and parking use. In total, the existing footprint for Atlas Block totals 1,663,749 square feet, while the proposed footprint totals 2,853,606 square feet.

Each of the individual components of Atlas Block contributes a unique element and design perspective to the overall project. The 3.5-acre City Park campus site, for example, emphasizes the public domain and the wider Bay Area, while also aiming to integrate with the rest of the development sites.

“The City Park is conceived as an integrated urban landscape that will be a special and memorable place in San Francisco. This full city block will integrate the historic and the contemporary, work and leisure, and it will be a community space for residents and visitors alike [and] … will be a unique place where nature and urban life come together to captivate people and enhance public life,” the proposal states. “The integrated design will connect the urban fabric of the streetscape to heavily planted open spaces within the block and to the Wintergarden at the ground level of the 200 Mission building, where a semi-enclosed subtropical garden will offer year-round comfort in a forested setting.”

Another of the central design elements of City Park is a focus on the regional elements that inspired it, with various specific design features taking cues from the environment around it. 

“The landscape concept for the City Park was inspired by the native redwood forests of northern California. Through a combination of existing and proposed architectural elements, publicly accessible passageways will act like ‘Front Door’ entries from each of the surrounding streets and become portals into the unexpected landscape spaces beyond,” the proposal notes. The surrounding buildings will buffer the inner courtyards from characteristic San Francisco wind, while unique light fixtures will create a signature identity for the park.

In terms of structural changes involved in the development of the project sites, each depends on the historical context of the existing buildings currently there, as detailed in the project proposal. 

The existing building at 200 Mission Street was built in 1971 and is a 34-story steel-framed office building with concrete floors, precast cladding, and a three-story basement. The structures will be deconstructed to bare structure above grade and rebuilt with a retrofitted structural lateral system and new MEP systems, elevators, architectural finishes and exterior cladding.

Historic Marketplace, similarly, has a distinctive historical legacy that will in some capacity be incorporated into the new design plans. Dating back to the early 1920s, the nearly 600,000 square foot historic Market Street Office Complex – which consists of various PG&E buildings listed in the National Register of Historic Place and designated as San Francisco Landmarks – is set to be transformed.

“The project will unite the complex by activating the open courtyard in the center of the lot and creating an outdoor publicly accessible park area. To preserve and respect the historic character of the PG&E and Matson buildings (215 and 245 Market Street) and each building’s historic annex, the proposed additions are designed to offer an elegant and quiet counterpoint to the original building,” details the proposal submitted to the city.

The project component at 50 Main Street also exemplifies a larger reimagining of the community of which it is a part of, drawing on the legacy of PG&E’s former headquarters and supporting the ongoing housing needs of the surrounding SoMa neighborhood.

“This project is part of a larger re-imagining of the community. The once closed-off and impenetrable city block that served as Pacific Gas & Electric’s corporate headquarters will be transformed into an open, permeable, and welcoming zone of activity, with a mix of different uses that activate the site at all times of day and night. The 89-story residential tower will be a key component of this activation and provide much-needed housing stock in this prominent transit-oriented downtown location. A residential tower of this scale supports the SOMA district’s ongoing transformation to an active and vibrant mixed-use neighborhood in the heart of the city,” the proposal states. 

In addition to the ways in which 50 Main Street contributes to the fabric of the local community, it also strives to achieve significant environmental impacts and serve as a beacon of best practices in sustainable architecture and construction. The all-electric building will reduce the dependence on fossil fuels and reduce GHG emissions and its design seeks to set industry standards in the reduction of embodied and operational carbon required to construct and maintain the building, as detailed in the proposal. Additionally, the building clearly communicates its vision for a clean, biophilic future by lifting the base above a grove of redwoods, which creates additional publicly accessible open space at the ground level and improved access to daylight for residents above.

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