Tower renderingPark atop transit center

SAN FRANCISCO-The Transbay Joint Powers Authority Board on Thursday selected the team of Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects and Hines for the design and development of a new Transbay Transit Center and an adjacent landmark tower at First and Mission streets that would be by far the tallest in the city. The team’s selection means it will enter exclusive negotiations with the TJPA for a disposition and development agreement for the tower property and a design agreement for the Transit Center. MetLife would be its financial partner.

The TJPA board’s decision affirms that of the jury for the international design and development competition, which placed Pelli-Hines proposal well ahead of the others. The jury gave the Pelli-Hines proposal an average score of 90, saying it was superior to the two other proposals in all respects, aesthetically, functionally and financially. The second-place proposal, from Skidmore Owings & Merrill and Rockefeller Group Development Corp., garnered an average score of 72. The third-place proposal, from Richard Rogers Partnership, Forest City Enterprises and MacFarlane Partners, had an average score of 61.

Pelli-Hines’ proposal calls for a 1.8-million-sf, 1,300-foot tower alongside a new transit terminal topped by a public park. Two defining components of the Pelli-Hines proposal are the price it is offering to pay for the Tower property, which, at $350 million, is more than double that of the other proposals; and the elevated 5.4-acre park it designed atop the Transit Center Building, something the two other proposals do not include. In addition, Hines envisions the tower containing exclusively office space while two other tower proposals had significant residential and hospitality components. Hines is projecting annual gross office rents at $83 per sf.

The redeveloped Transbay Transit Center will centralize the region’s transportation network by accommodating eight transportation systems under one roof–AC Transit, Caltrain, MUNI, Golden Gate Transit, SamTrans, Greyhound, BART and the future California High-Speed Rail, which will transport people between San Francisco and Los Angeles in less than three hours. The design presentations represent one of the final stages of an eight-month international competition to find a design with “aesthetic and functional excellence” and that provides “a sound economic return to the TJPA.”

The design and development competition was run by Donald Stastny of StastnyBrun Architects Inc. of Portland, OR. The jury praised Pelli’s design for both the tower and the transit center and how they worked together. “The elegant, slender, light design of the Tower is appropriate for San Francisco, and the park, if properly built, managed, and programmed, could be a huge amenity,” states a report on the jury’s conclusions about the proposals. “Both the Tower and the Transit Center are very well woven together as an urban form and are strong contributors versus detractors to the urban fabric.”

The jury praised the SOM-Rockefeller tower design “as memorable and beautiful without seeming too overdone,” but concluded that the base was “too bulky” and did not have enough pedestrian connections or amenities at ground level. With regard to the Transit Center, the jury said the SOM plans “diminish the center’s operational efficiency.”

Of the Richard Rogers-Forest City design the report says the jury found the tower to be “a burly, aggressive, and industrial structure that does not marry well with the light-colored ornamental buildings of San Francisco” and that the Transit Center design was “problematic” in that there was no clear entry, it restricts pedestrian flow and forces pedestrians to be “exposed to the elements when boarding.”