January 2013

Community Members Unhappy with Proposed Development at Concourse and One Henry Adams

By George Nelson

Archstone is planning to demolish the Concourse Exhibition Center, at 801 Brannan Street, and replace it with 435 residential units and 23,367 square feet of retail space, adjacent to another 239 apartments planned for One Henry Adams. David Baker – who has worked on a number of area developments, including Archstone Potrero, Mission Bay Block 7 and 300 Ivy – has been tasked with designing the Brannan Street building. The One Henry Adams site, covering 1.65 acres, would include more than 13,000 square feet of commercial space, and is being designed by Jon Worden. 

The ‘formulaic nature’ of Archstone’s planned developments at 801 Brannan Street and One Henry Adams irks some Potrero Hill residents. “They use the same architect again and again and the vocabulary is no different,” said Dick Millet, Potrero Boosters Neighbourhood Association vice president. “The Concourse will also be greatly missed.”

Some community members feel that they’ve been blocked out of the development’s planning process, with little compromise being made with regards to the style of the proposed projects. “The developers seem to deal with the public just enough to get past the public,” claimed Potrero Hill resident David Glober.

According to Jim Meko, founder and chair of the SoMa Leadership Council, “The project to my knowledge is pretty much unchanged from the original plans submitted in 2010. They have a formula for this kind of thing and they all start to look very much alike. Trying to get David Baker to shift his thinking is like moving a mountain.” 

“I think it’s best you put me down as “no comment”,” said Bill Poland, chair of Bay West Group, which owns the Concourse, when asked if he had the best interests of Potrero Hill residents in mind when designing the new Brannan Street building. 

The proposed retail space on the ground floor of both developments has also come under flak. “It’s just a ton of residential with a little bit of rubbish on the ground floor which is supposed to make the housing worthwhile,” said a Harriet Street resident. 

“We wanted a seat at the table and we fought for it. The community insisted on a mix of uses, as opposed to mixed-use, this is a huge difference. One building might be commercial, one residential, another might be a mixture of the two,” said Meko. “The Eastern neighbourhood plans are written at the planning department, not in the community. The planners are living in a bubble.”

Plans to develop the sites may have be temporarily delayed as a result of the imminent acquisition of Archstone by Equity Residential and Avalonbay Communities, Incorporated. According to David Baker associate Kevin Markarian, “The schedule of construction have changed given the situation. We should know more as the deal unfolds. It appears to have been put on hold for now, but we’re still going through all the steps right now with our entitlements.”

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