The Revitalization of the San Francisco Civic Center

According to a recent article in the Business Journal, the city of San Francisco is calling on designers to present plans for the revitalization of the Civic Center, a $600,000 project instituted by Mayor Ed Lee. 

The Civic Center Public Space Design plan is calling for the creation of "a more active, inviting environment in the commons for all to enjoy," says John Updike, the City's director of real estate.

Located a few blocks north of the intersection of Market Street and Van Ness Avenue, The San Francisco Civic Center contains many of the city's largest government and cultural institutions. It has two large plazas, the Civic Center Plaza and United Nations Plaza, and includes a number of buildings in classical architectural style, most of which were rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake. The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, formerly the Exposition Auditorium. is located here.

 City Hall from the San Francisco Public Library City Hall at Civic Center. 

City Hall from the San Francisco Public Library City Hall at Civic Center. 

A lot of notable historic events have taken place at the Civic Center. The United Nations Charter was signed in the War Memorial Veterans Building's Herbst Theatre in 1945, leading to the creation of the United Nations. It is also where the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco (the peace treaty that officially ended the Pacific War with the Empire of Japan, which had surrendered in 1945) was signed. The San Francisco Civic Center was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places on October 10, 1978. This is also where the annual Pride Parade gathering takes place and where the recent Women's March occurred on March 21, 2017.

The Civic Center Public Space Design plan is hoping to draw people to the space by reopening Brooks Hall, possibly transforming it into a food hall, and using Polk Hall at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for upwards of 100 intimate 200-seat concerts and other events annually.

Brooks Hall, a 90,000 square foot facility once used as a conference hall, was built in 1958 and closed its doors in 1993. This large space is sitting vacant and holds tremendous opportunity. Other ideas include a commercial kitchen or other commercial use. But the cost to renovate could run upwards of $40 million, depending upon what the final use of the Hall will be.

Just as with the new Warriors area, this project is one of Mayor Lee's final acts in office and a 'lasting part of his legacy.'

Formal proposals are due February 10th and the City Planning department has already engaged with potential candidates for the revitalization.