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News & Events

Nov 11
Industry News

Condo plan comes out of deep freeze

Paramount Group is proposing to build a 160-unit residential highrise at the foot of Howard Street in San Francisco’s south financial district, the latest indication that developers are starting to plan new projects again after more than three years of inactivity.

The Paramount plan calls for the demolition of the eight-story parking garage at 75 Howard St., a site that has long been seen as one of the last remaining prime development sites in the central business district.

San Francisco Planning Director John Rahaim said the department is reviewing the application and preparing its comments in a preliminary project assessment, which should be wrapped up in about two weeks.

While the details are likely to change based on the planning department’s response, the developer is proposing a 284-foot condo building. The architect is the San Francisco office of Skidmore Owings & Merrill, which designed the St. Regis and the International Terminal at San Francisco International Airport.

“We think replacing an eight-story above-ground parking garage with a building that is in line with the other buildings in the area, including the Gap Building and Rincon Tower, makes sense for the neighborhood,” said P.J. Johnston, a spokesman for Paramount. “We’ll be working with the city over the coming months to refine our plans.”

The proposal comes as the Planning Department is busy processing a combination of new proposals and old schemes that are being dusted off and revised. Other signs of activity are the Emerald Fund’s proposals to convert 100 Van Ness Ave. to 400 housing units and to build a 175-unit tower at 101 Polk St.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Business Times reported last week that Crescent Heights is starting construction on 750 apartments at 10th and Market streets.

Until 2007, 75 Howard St. was owned by Chicago-based real estate investment trust Equity Office Properties. In early 2007, the building was part of a national portfolio bought by the Blackstone Group, which quickly sold 10 San Francisco properties to Morgan Stanley Real Estate for $2.43 billion. Soon after, Morgan Stanley sold a 50 percent interest to Paramount, which now controls and manages both 75 Howard St. and One Market Center.

“It’s a spectacular location for residential,” said Johnston. “If there is one thing everyone can agree on, (it) is that an eight-story parking garage is the worst use of the site from a city planning standpoint.”

Equity Office Properties had looked at the site as an office development play, but never got beyond preliminary drawings, according to CAC Group Vice President Mark Geisreiter, who was a managing director of EOP’s Bay Area office. Geisreiter said the 550-car garage and the billboard atop it brought in so much revenue that only a very frothy market would justify redevelopment.

“It’s one of the few parking garages I know of where if your car is on the second floor you have an amazing view of the bay,” said Geisreiter.

The potential project has caught the attention of renters at Rincon Center Apartments, which is across Howard Street from the garage. David Osgood of the Rincon Center Tenants Association said he would like to see a building that is seven stories at the curb with the taller portion stepped back from the sidewalk, similar to Rincon Center and the Gap building.

“Obviously we’re going to follow this closely as good neighbors should,” said Osgood.

Chris Foley of the condo marketing company Polaris Group called it “an A-plus location in an A-plus market with water views you’ll never see in San Francisco again. I don’t care when they build it, ... it’s going to sell for $1,000 a square foot.”

Established in 1968 by Werner Otto, the New York-based Paramount Group owns 13 million square feet of Class A commercial office space in midtown and downtown Manhattan, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, according to its website. The site doesn’t mention any housing projects it has completed.

By J.K. Dineen covers real estate for the San Francisco Business Times.
Source: San Francisco Business Times