Reawakening Treasure Island

Monday, June 18, 2007
By kelly Matlock

San Francisco, CA, US (NCS) - How do you go about redeveloping a 393-acre manmade island that was originally constructed for the Golden Gate International Exposition and later served as a United States Naval Air Station until its decommissioning in 1997?

The San Francisco office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill has fearlessly answered that question with a master plan development proposal for San Francisco’s Treasure Island, located off Yerba Buena Island and connected to the San Francisco Bay Bridge.

Since 2005, SOM has worked to create a new vision for the island after former development proposals were opposed for various reasons after the initial planning began in 2001.
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Two associate firms based in San Francisco, SMWM and CMG Landscape Architects, were also working on the project. The development team includes San Francisco’s Kenwood Investments and Wilson Meany Sullivan, along with Lennar Corporation, headquartered in Miami.

According to the architects, the plan has earned broad support from community groups, political leaders and business organizations since its unveiling at a series of meetings and presentations led by SOM.

The Treasure Island Plan involves a unique, 21st century San Francisco community that is socially and economically diverse and supported by close-knit neighborhoods, unprecedented open space, resource-conserving technology and a robust network of transportation choices. Envisioned as both a great place to live and a regional destination, the plan proposes three compact neighborhoods centered around an energizing, mixed-use hub and ferry terminal set within a richly faceted 275-acre Great Park.

The scope, scale and visibility of the project make it one of the largest development plans in San Francisco history and one of the highest profile urban redevelopments in the country.

The environmentally sustainable scheme includes green elements including runoff-filtering wetlands and green skyscrapers as well as an ecological education and art park, a shoreline park at the island’s edge, playgrounds and a 20-acre organic farm. A wind farm as well as diagonal rows of trees will help control the amount of wind hitting the island.
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Treasure Island Master Plan
The new development would take up only a quarter of the island’s area and will be built in phases. In the residential phase, there will be approximately 5,900 residential units built, of which 30 percent will be affordable. The residential area will accommodate around 13,500 residents, and will be divided by high-density, low-to-midrise blocks of townhouses, flats clustered around neighborhood open spaces, and residential towers approximately 14 stories high.

A new street grid aligned with rows of wind-shielding trees offers
“a richer pedestrian experience than the typical Cartesian grid,” said SOM partner Craig Hartman.

Four 40-story towers will surround a central, 60-story tower, which will be supported by a structural exoskeleton that frames an optimal amount of glass for the exterior. The tower will incorporate sustainable features, such as the use of geothermal energy, a series of glass light shelves clad in transparent photovoltaic film, and a glass sky garden on the roof. The building will be called the Sun Tower, in reference to the island’s former Tower of the Sun, a 400-foot structure that was the first major landmark of the original exhibition grounds. 

All of the towers will be concentrated in the center of the island’s urban core. A new ferry terminal will be installed adjacent to a new retail, commercial and cultural district, and a parking system will encourage car-free living. The neighborhoods, which are pedestrian and bicycle-friendly, will be within a ten minute walk to the ferry terminal.

In December, the $1.2 billion development plan, of which $500 million would be private investment and $700 million would be city bonds, received preliminary approval from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. This preliminary approval opened doors for the design and development team to make a binding contract. A group of additional architects may be commissioned throughout the design process to flesh out the plan.

“The intent is to make this a new national model for what a wholly sustainable community can be about,” said Hartman.

Overall completion of the development is currently scheduled for 2022, and new residents are expected to move in by 2013.

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Rendering showing an aerial view of the San Francisco peninsula , Treasure Island and the Bay Bridge
Copyright © 2007 Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Copyright © 2007 Skidmore, Owings & Merrill