With Development Underway, UC Hastings’ Academic Village Project Seeks to Blend the Residential, Civic and Commercial Sides of San Francisco

UC Hastings, 198 McAllister, Greystar, Perkins & Will
Courtesy of Perkins & Will

By Meghan Hall 

The heart of San Francisco is known for its diversity and vibrancy–in its range of building uses, in architecture and in populace. San Francisco’s UC Hastings and project partners Greystar Development and Perkins & Will are gearing up on the second phase of a major mixed-use project that will work to blend the best of San Francisco into one development. The 14-story project, located at 198 McAllister Street, has been designed to anchor the UC Hastings campus and surrounding neighborhood for years to come.

“This project is being delivered using the increasingly popular Public-Private Partnerships (P3) model, an innovative method of project delivery between a public institution and a private entity that overcomes otherwise limited funding sources and higher risks,” explained Perkins and Will Principal John Long. “Especially now, with normal revenue streams being challenged or depleted, more and more universities are turning to public-private partnerships to help finance student housing projects.”

The 356,000 square foot project will offer a diverse array of spaces designed by the project team to foster student success. The building will include 650 beds for graduate students, as well as a community auditorium, courtrooms and retail. 80,000 square feet will be specifically dedicated to academic spaces, and about 35 percent of the residential units will be reserved for UC Hastings learners and employees.

According to the project team, there were a number of objectives that defined the project’s mission and design. Affordability, livability and maintainability were top concerns. The team wanted to create a technological and sustainable building that would serve as activation for not just 198 McAllister, but the surrounding community. 

The building will be a blend of the materials and scale of the Tenderloin, Civic Center and surrounding UC Hastings buildings. These already-established structures feature a variety of architectural languages, including pale gold brick, punched window patterns and white concrete. Using these as a basis for inspiration, UC Hastings, Perkins & Will and Greystar sought to create a bold and modern addition to the neighborhood.

“198 McAllister is on a prominent corner at the historically and architecturally rich nexus of San Francisco’s Civic Center, Mid-Market, and Tenderloin neighborhoods,” stated Greystar’s Senior Director of Development Mike McCone. “With its striking façade, the new building will convey a powerfully modern aesthetic in sync with its significant neighbors. From an experiential standpoint, the mixed-use complex is designed to enable residents and other community members to connect across institutional lines.”

The building’s fenestration will be defined by a unique pattern of punched and bay windows, as well as a grand, two-story lobby. As a contrast, the main body of the residential façade will be inspired by San Francisco’s public buildings, utilizing concave aluminum panels and fluted surfaces that resemble the columns that often adorn the exterior of civic structures and judicial courts. 

A ribbon of transparent public spaces winds its way across the buildings via a series of windows. The transparency provides a connection between the inner workings of 198 McAllister and the public realm, ascending to show a number of study rooms before culminating at a skyline lounge and terrace. The ceiling will also be visible and will include lighting that will change color to match public events and post powerful graphic messaging, adding to UC Hasting’s presence on the block.

“This ribbon serves to transmit light into the residential block, transmit the life of the buildings and the identity of UC Hastings to the street and to the city, and create a building a scale that complements its neighbors,” said Long. “It also has the potential to be a canvas for the visual identity of UC Hastings that reflects the unique art and culture of the Tenderloin community within which it resides.”

Designing a building with such a vast multitude of uses, and within a neighborhood context that is always changing, is no easy feat. For Perkins & Will, striking the balance between different uses and a design that facilitates them can work if a few guiding principles are kept in mind: the intentionality of spaces and organization; tailoring units to suit student demographics; creating vibrant social common spaces and amenities that serve as the “hearth” of student residential buildings; and a focus on diversity and inclusion to accommodate all students, teachers and staff.

“Residential life is broad in definition. It spans from first-year to upper division to graduate to faculty and staff housing,” noted Long. “Each of these relates to a different outcome, a different mission. The choreography of these experiences from the front door to the bedroom or apartment can lead to success in many ways…empowerment, collaboration, learning, respite, and retreat.”

Over the past several years, developers have been taking on a number of residential projects around the Bay Area and beyond. According to Long, many are focused on projects off or adjacent to campuses. As learn-from-anywhere programs take root over the next year as a result of the pandemic, the sector could see a shift as developers move away from core campus locations, locations that some students may also seek to as an antidote to single-occupancy units. Regardless, successful projects will be ones that can balance both students’ needs and the surrounding neighborhood climate—a change that is far from fully realized.

“We believe that the organizational framework of student housing on campus should work in harmony between the need for placemaking at the campus scale and the need to create memorable scalable communities,” Long added. “…Enduring a pandemic is not without a paradigm shift that will impact how we go forward at each level of society. Clients focused on student residential life are already thinking about the impacts that this will have on their future planning and design.”

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