May 30, 2008

Proposed Piano Parcels (Including 50 First Street) On The Market

We blew it. Early last month a tipster alerted us to the fact that 50 First Street had hit the market and we briefly published the following:

According to a plugged-in tipster, 50 First Street has been put on the market with CBRE. If that location sounds familiar (the corner of First and Mission), it should. Especially if you’re starchitect Renzo Piano as that’s where a clustering of five super thin and up to 1,200-foot towers designed by Mr. Piano had been proposed to be built.

We pulled the post when we realized that 50 First was to the north of Jessie Street (we thought all of the proposed Piano development was to be to the south). But alas, 50 First is in fact one of seven parcels that David Choo had assembled for the proposed Piano project. And all seven parcels have hit the market. From J.K. Dineen this morning:

“A developer who planned to build a cluster of soaring Renzo Piano-designed towers across from the Transbay Terminal is reluctantly selling the property, one of the crown jewels of his real estate business. The [seven-parcel assemblage] could be worth as much as $140 million.”
“The sale comes at a time when the city is rezoning the Transbay district, a highrise zone around the new Transbay and terminal. Under the Planning Department's current thinking, Choo's assembled site, on the northeast corner of First and Mission, would be zoned for heights 150 to 200 feet lower than the Transbay tower itself. Thus if the Transbay tower is 1,000 feet, which is likely at this point, whoever buys the Choo parcel would be allowed to build up to 800 feet.
That is significantly lower than two of the four buildings Choo had hoped to build, 1,200-foot skyscrapers Piano had likened to bamboo shoots.”

That's likely the one-two punch for the Piano project. And apologies to our tipster, we never should have doubted you.

UPDATE: "Property is listed by Eastdil not CBRE."

Prime San Francisco Transbay project on the block [Business Times]
They Just Keep Getting Bigger, And Bigger, And Bigger... [SocketSite]
Transit Center District Plan Workshop: Initial Ideas Tonight (4/30/08) [SocketSite]

First Published: May 30, 2008 8:00 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

I'm not going to be happy till the transbay tower is downsized to a one story carriage house out of a thomas kinkade painting. The city that knows how eh ?
I wonder what bureaucratic bobblehead it was that decided that 1200' was too tall? You know thats how it went - it wasnt shadow, or even NIMBY's at this point - it was just some bureaucrat in a conference room deciding SF just cant go over 1k feet.

Posted by: Joe at May 30, 2008 8:54 AM

Heller Manus at 800'!! We will have the most glamorous skyline North of San Jose, South of Portland, and West of Reno !! Hip hip hoorah!!

Posted by: sf at May 30, 2008 9:03 AM

Profitability becomes increasingly tricky above 50 stories because of engineering issues. All such problems can be solved, but that costs money. A more practical developer will stay under 800 feet or so and make more money for having done so. The reed like towers were inspiring and would have had excellent high floor small area spaces to rent, but the costs would have been such that only a committed tennant could make the project work. It was a dream, nothing more.

Posted by: Mole Man at May 30, 2008 9:03 AM

"Heller Manus at 800'!! We will have the most glamorous skyline North of San Jose, South of Portland, and West of Reno !! Hip hip hoorah!!"

Come on. You think LA, Seattle or San Diego are better? You gotta go to Vancouver, or west to Chicago to find a better skyline.

Posted by: fluj at May 30, 2008 9:20 AM

Fluj I was being very snarky I am just bitter and saddened about this. I do think we have a better skyline than Vancouver, but LA's appears to be more aesthetically pleasing, probably because it is more vertical.

Posted by: sf at May 30, 2008 9:23 AM

Just a correction. Property is listed by Eastdil not CBRE.

Posted by: a at May 30, 2008 9:41 AM

word on the street is that the developer was getting the cash for this dream-like binge from the the sub-prime housing market. A house of cards indeed. Never bet the farm on something that has "irrational paper-thin bubble" written all over it. The sale of the property has nothing to do with the planning work going on or the discussion of heights. Note in the article that the fee developer partner said that have been trying to figure out how to proceed for over a year, well before the Planning Dept said anything about heights. Can't blame the bureacracy on this one.

Posted by: investor at May 30, 2008 9:49 AM

I wouldn't be mad at a single tower in the 800-900 foot range on this site but this is still terrible news. I kind of expected to hear this to be honest. Speaking of skyline aesthetics....I think Seattle may have us beat as well. We have way more density but LA and Seattle have the height.

Posted by: gndamish at May 30, 2008 9:59 AM

Word on the street is the One Rincon developer is going to buy the lot, but will get around the height limit by clever renumbering of the floors.

Floors will be numbered starting with 45, and going up by 17 or 13 each (e.g. first floor is 45, second floor is 62, third floor is 75, etc.), so that the numbskulls in the planning department will be unable to get their heads around exactly how many 10' stories there really are, thereby allowing the total building height to be 1600'.

In addition, it will be the only building you can buy condos in on the 92nd floor and still be only 30' from the ground.

Posted by: tipster at May 30, 2008 10:14 AM

Further clarification: Socketsite was right that CBRE had been hired to help find an equity partner; Eastdil has now been retained to sell it outright.

Posted by: JKD at May 30, 2008 12:59 PM

I was just in Vancouver, BC this past weekend. Absolutely stunning. Every building along the waterfront has to include large parcels of public parkland. The city parks are beautifully kept. Its very cosmopolitan - beats SF in that dept I think. Not perfect of course. Most of the buildings, while clean-lined, would not win any design awards (although I didn't see any fake stucco either) but they seem to reflect the water and mountains surrounding the city. Every major US city, except perhaps Chicago, needs to visit and take notes.

OH, one not to be overlooked negative - housing is about as expensive as SF. Not sure about the rental market but 1 bedrooms for 700-800 would not be unusual. The 1 bedrooms look larger though.

Posted by: Cameron at May 30, 2008 9:55 PM

please build the 1200 feet tower, we want San Francisco to look its best.

Posted by: Johnnie Carlilse at July 8, 2008 2:06 PM

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