525 Jones Street

Zoned for development up to 130 feet in height, and with a lot that could support building up to 76 apartments or condos, the 1920’s era garage at 525 Jones Street is on the market in the Tenderloin without a preset price and calling for offers by June 9.

A few years ago, the owners of the building met with planning to discuss adding up to 45 units atop the garage and converting the commercial space into a Whole Foods, but those plans never materialized and the current lease for the operator of the 99-stall garage expires at the end of August with no options to extend.

The conceptual rendering/massing for the site drafted to market its potential for development:

525 Jones Street Redevelopment Rendering

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Comments from “Plugged-In” Readers

  1. Posted by Aaron Goodman

    Would be nice if we could finally get a decent historic preservation based alternative to all the gloss and glitz glass schemes, and do one that uses a more historic vertical up front to the façade (not more than 5′ back from front that goes vertically in design and utilizes the existing character of the building in concept. Why all the brutal basic buildings, without a real effort at designing and developing a decent classic façade. This area would be better served with a more historic palette, than what is shown.

    • Posted by beachplease

      Why build fake history?

      • Posted by Aaron Goodman

        because too much of the glass block, brutalist designs are getting built, and retro-cool is not out of the picture… there is an architect called Timothy Pflueger who would probably have come up with a really cool alternative building with architectural details and what is also known as “craft” in the details…

        • Posted by Futurist

          Ok, so you’re just stuck in the past when it comes what you “like” in architecture. We get that. Pflueger designed some great buildings of a completely different era, nearly 100 years ago. The architecture reflected that period and a strong prevailing style.

          BTW, there is no glass block shown in this project. It’s not brutal. It’s modern. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Even diehard historic preservationists do NOT want an addition to an existing (somewhat) historic building to imitate or mimic the earlier architecture. The new piece should distinctly be “of this time” and stand on its’ own. Attempting to copy or mimic any semblance of the original building will only lead to a “Disneyesqe” style and further erode the strength of each building.

          • Posted by Billy

            I hate to agree with Futurist…, but this is spot on.

          • Posted by Brian M

            Especially since nine times out of ten the mimicry looks so bad. cheap, thin, poorly detailed. Bad.

            There is an Oakland architect whose historicism I do like-gosh, can’t think of his name, but his small office is at the very upper end of College in Rockridge. He did the Gaia building, for one example.

          • Posted by SFrentier

            Actually wrt mimicking existing classical design, the Chinese do a great job of it. Like those wholesale replica Tuscany villages they build for their nouveau riche. It’s called kitch. Look, if Jeff Koons can get away with it, why not architects? I mean, fake old stones, fake vineyards and little creeks. Andy (Warhol) would have loved it 😉

          • Posted by Aaron Goodman

            did not say glass block, “glass-tile” – for a better example see modern materials used in current buildings, as a precursor see “guastavino – tile company” NYC…

            did not say a copy, or mimic, but something that follows the vertical elements, lineal design wise, and this can still be modern

            and no Im not stuck in the past, it can be in this time, not Disneyesque and can be a strong designed concept. I would be all for a glass and steel system, for the tower, or a lot of other options, but not the brutalistic proportion of what is shown…

      • Posted by SFrentier

        Why fake built history

        (ganip ganop)

    • Posted by Futurist

      Because so called “classic” facades are nothing more than a cheap pastiche to satisfy the average man/woman on the street who does not care for nor choose to understand modern architecture. You appear to fall into that category.

      Yes, save the interesting, classic, historic garage front, but let’s build new work that is of this time.

      • Posted by Alai

        Only classic 1920s cheap pastiches are interesting. 2010s cheap pastiches are not.

        • Posted by lemon obrien

          that’s cause cheap back then, is expensive today

      • Posted by Aaron Goodman

        Its easy to state someone who can appreciate historic buildings is “non-understanding” of modern architecture. But the average person is someone who cannot learn to play and work within both realms. Someone who has the ability to work with the old and the new, and make a design that people can relate to is also known as a “creative” and someone who often uses his abilities to go against the grain, and delve into a solution. Don’t just label such people “preservationists, pastiche, or post-modernists” as the people who also love modern eichlers, and glass facades, also understand craft/details and how buildings can go together in terms of materials to create new and rather elegant solutions….to create the future, precedent is a valid ally…. always.

      • Posted by Serge

        There is nothing to understand about modern architecture. It is soulless and devoid of any life. Basically everything from the 1950s on is sterile. Those Richmond District Specials were once modern and hip. They are all scars on the landscape.

    • Posted by Notcom

      I think the problem is that they want to attempt to preserve the illusion that it’s (still) a stand alone building…and implicitly that the street is still a series of two/three-story structures. Also, although one could certainly remove the stepped parapet and use it as a base for a traditional tripartite composition, if that were to be botched – and judging by a lot of what we see here, that should be an embarassment to even a first-year student, it’s a distinct possibility – then the integrity of the original would be lost.

      • Posted by Aaron Goodman

        The image in the background is lightened and whitened in imagery, but in built form it will be heavy box-like, and very un-merging with the original building… setting it back does nothing… I would bring it forward, create a structural vertical design with some detail and embellishment using perhaps a new material, or neutral colored glass-tile or perhaps terra-cotta modern details, that could provide an interesting separation and vertical design, between the lower and vertical elements.

        • Posted by Notcom

          Nothing? Au contraire my good man: it allows someone standing in the middle of the street – either trying to see if the 27 is coming or hailing a cab if they’ve given up on the former – to pretend for a few minutes that the intruder isn’t there.

          And while YOU might do that, it’s more likely the project would be handed over to some nincompoop who’d end up desecrating the whole streetscape….better safe than sorry.

  2. Posted by soccermom



  3. Posted by Edward

    Inspired by the SFMOMA addition…

    • Posted by SFrentier

      At least they’re not trying to simulate “billowing fog” with the new facade. That’s what happens when an out of town archi, no matter how reputable, falls to the whims of cliché when trying to understand “place.” And that’s the point; you can never really attempt to understand place. You either are part of it or you’re not.

      • Posted by Futurist

        Not true at all, and your comments seem to smack of “localism”, one sided and narrow.

        You may not like the new SFMOMA, which is what you are referring to in the “billowing fog” comment, but the architects working with the client developed a language of architect that can be used to recall local elements. Yes, it’s very subtle, and yes, to many it’s very “high brow”, but architecture does NOT have to please the simplest and most mundane type of thinking. Referencing the fog is hardly a cliché. It’s a way, in artistic and architectural language to reference place, OUR place.

        The fundamental reason why so many “people” don’t like or understand modern architecture is that they don’t want to TAKE TIME to understand it. They want it to instantly be comfortable, explainable and familiar. Thinking about what it means symbolically is just to much work for them.

        If that were the rule for new architecture we would end up with tons of new Wal-marts and Home Depot style buildings all over our city, if not our country.

        • Posted by SFrentier

          Ummm…you’re totally misunderstanding me. First, I actually like the new addition quite a bit (I’ve already been inside.). Second, I understand quite a lot about modern and contemporary art, so high minded visual ideas are concepts I’m well familiar with. My point was that attempting to simulate billowing fog with the facade is cliched. I actually like the facade (and thinks it works well given the existing structure), but I don’t like that fog concept behind it. It’s a bit like a Damien Hirst artwork- sometimes the title is better than the art itself (in this case the design is better without that explaination.)

  4. Posted by cfb

    Cool…but a whole foods isn’t exactly in the price range of most TL residents. So they finally get a grocery store in their neighborhood, but it’s for upper class people instead of them.

    • Posted by Hunter

      That plan was nixed years ago, and this area actually has a huge range of income levels plus proximity to Union Square. I think a Whole Foods would work fine, or another upper-tier grocery store (Trader Joes is just up the hill).

  5. Posted by kes

    We are the Borg. Resistance is futile.

    • Posted by Brian M

      I am Futurist of Borg. From now on, you will Service Us.

      (just kidding. just kidding. I agree with Futurist here to some extent.

      But Futurist also illustrates a problem with modern culture. Modern high culture has become some intellectualized that it is unmoored from common culture. I don’t think one could say that about high art architecture in the past. Or other high art types. So Aaron Goodman actually makes a point as well…modern art is so separated from a sense of craft and humanistic proportion that only those educated in FROM BAUHAUS TO OUR HOUSE “compounds” can understand it. And, as much as I like modern design (and think this is fine) that IS a cultural problem.

      • Posted by Futurist

        No the problem is a laziness problem. Too many people who are not informed or educated about “Modern High Culture”, as you call it. ie: architecture, art, literature, theater, music, et al., don’t WANT to learn a damn thing about it.

        I call it lazy, being uninformed, not caring. Too interested in an easy definition, an easy answer, a fast food reason is desired or none at all. It’s not rocket science. It’s called being engaged.

        • Posted by Aaron Goodman

          I agree on the laziness, it pervades what we see getting built currently…

          Towers around Rincon, all devoid of some decent detailing.

          Its the “fast-cheap-and-outta-control” stylistic efforts that only take the cheapest system, blue-green glass and think they are done with the details, or forget about pushing the design of the envelope…

          The current buildings we see too often are missing the possibilities of “craft” again with current technologies (3-D printing) for example that could easily be integrated into the design of a very interesting quickly built and detailed, but very accommodating and financially acceptable concept.

          Craft is what we seek, and modern designs can and should exemplify this concept even if it is a re-surgence of a prior form…

          • Posted by Futurist

            Ok, so you’re basically stuck in the past. You like old buildings. You like hand made things. I get that.

            But you’re not understanding nor interested in the discussion of why adding on to an existing historic structure should not mimic it, but rather stand apart from it. And why should we “make sure” that some of the old is incorporated into the new?

          • Posted by Brian M

            Aaron: Exactly. (I just posted my own rant to Futurist) Even if we disagree on many projects, your reply here is NOT “lazy”. I dispute strongly the ideology…which is what it is…that only modernism is intellectually justifiable and that craft and detailing need only be historicist. And I even LIKE minimalist modernist design when done well. Heck, I like many of the newer projects that you probably hate! But Futurist is going too far into polemicism and ideology.

          • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

            I like your idea of applying 3D printing to modern architecture Aaron. Or go slightly lower tech and use CNC milling, a technology which will probably scale better than 3D printing.

            Computer technology can be the defining factor in our modern age architecture. Actually it already is. Much of what Koolhaas and Gehry have designed lately would be impossible without computer aided engineering.

            Now just apply the same technology to the superficial decorative aspects too.

        • Posted by Brian M

          No. Absolutely not, Futurist.

          Again, I like a lot of modern architecture. I am pointing out that there was a cultural divide, a separation so to speak, between high culture and traditional culture that really took off in the 20th century but had its roots in 19th century romanticism.

          Furthermore, how can one look around at a lot of the modernist dreck being built in SF now (not all new projects, and not all modernist design, but too much) and not make the exact same statement about “not caring” or “laziness”? A blank walled concrete block box is a blank walled box, even if one bothers to invent all kinds of intellectualized nonsense to justify the value engineering.

          You may disagree with him on style and design and planning issues, but how can you even call, for example, Aaron Goodman “disengaged”. He is often more engaged than you can be. He explains his points, you just hand waive and appeal to TEH AUTHORITEH of the architectural profession. I know which position seems lazier to me, even if I actually generally agree with you more on many of the projects presented here.

  6. Posted by alberto rossi

    That’s not a rendering of the proposed building. It’s a rendering of the full scale model of the proposed building.

  7. Posted by james jr

    soccermom, you hit the nail on the head!

  8. Posted by JB10

    One reason why the addition looks so jarring is that the original is composed of 5 horizontal “cells” and the new box is composed of 6 horizontal cells. There is nothing to tie the new to the old.

    • Posted by Aaron Goodman

      exactly! don’t have to mimic or play preservationist, we need just to make sure some element is transformed into the new…

  9. Posted by Louis

    The problem with this scheme, and its triggering a lot of the debate here, or some of it, is not that this is a modernist addition above a pretty good historical base — its that its a really mediocre neo-modernist design. Its a bad developer attempt and an architect with tepid skills.

    I know this seems subjective, but at a certain level its fact.

    I would love to see a great modernist tower above this structure but this is not it. I would hate to see another “historicist” attempt done to avoid a stylistic clash and appease “preservationists” and put something up bland, banal, culturally irrelevant, as in the easy way out.

    But this is just a bad example. There is a lot of laziness in the debates around this, as futurist says above and there has been an intellectually lazy, regressive attitude toward new architecture in SF for decades.

    There are good examples, im not just taking the easy critic route — look at BAM in NYC (HHPA), look at Lincoln center NYC (vertical addition over viv beaumont) ( HHPA arch, again), look at the National Gallery in London (forgotten Bob Venturi, one of the greats)

    The predominant strain of historicism/preservationism has left this town with a legacy of thousands mediocre small building with “bay windows”, bad office buildings with “traditional materials” ( how about first and mission s/w corner).

    Despite the flattering self-image many of us have of oursevles, this is a very conservative, regressive town when it comes to architecture, urban design AND preservation. Theres is more to living preservation than the question of yes or no on demolition.

    Most truly A-level architects dislike working here, and several will not because they despise the process of having design ground down the the least common denominator by opponents with strong politically effective opinions but little knowledge or discernment. The ones I am aware of who have said “thanks but rather not….” are Piano (after 1st and MIssion misery), Koolhaas, Venturi, Bob Stern (after Gap) even Norman Foster (one big buildings, not apple store, until Heller manus hired to chaperone), Enrique Norten… it goes on.

    Not sure whether I like SFMOMA yet, will take a while, but they did something at a really high level. The most interesting preservation question to come up in decades was how to treat the Botta structure, but its not victorian and its not 50y/o so preservation types could care less.

    • Posted by Futurist

      Excellent comments, and yes, those A list architects you mentioned are some of the best. As is Snohetta with the new SFMOMA: a brilliant, sublime, intricate and elegant addition to the (somewhat) bulky, heavy and overly PoMO’d brick hulk by Botta.

      Certainly the addition shown above for this project is, I would assume, an early conceptual design of what the architects are thinking about. People need to understand process, time, evolution, thinking and re-thinking of a solution. The best architects always think this way.

      And the best architects understand that for this project to be very successful architecturally, the new addition must NOT mimic any part of the original façade, but stand apart and allow the historic façade to shine on its’ own.

    • Posted by Brian M

      Despite my points above, I also think these are excellent comments as well. Kudos!

  10. Posted by Aaron Goodman

    google search for “ornate pre-fabricated panels” and you will find quite the interesting way of re-skinning buildings in a modern fashion that could work very well with the initial ideas of the concept shown.

  11. Posted by Aaron Goodman

    Craft could be a very modern and “stream-lined” element in this design, whether it remains block like in massing with more filegre designed elements, or if the vertical structure becomes more ornate, and the panels more simplistic…or pure.

    The options actually can begin to be very interesting, both in terms of modern and preservation in their inter-twining…just takes a bit more effort on the design and its lower floor original imagery.

  12. Posted by Aaron Goodman

    A very good discussion of new vs. old was regarding the MAD building design in NYC.

  13. Posted by Zugamenzio Farnsworth

    A difficult call this: something new in a visual sea of old.

    Perhaps, indeed, the new could somehow “match” the old, without selling out. Aka, possibly the new part, towards the bottom, could have the same header/cornice width as in the garage facade, possibly some slightly arched windows, the two parts could be the same color, the new part could sport a few oddly placed horizontal cornice like pieces (as does the old part’s cornice “top”), etc. those things are all part of a modern vocabulary, or could be (geometry, color).

    i actually do like both modern and traditional, and if i was rich and had to do my own custom home i’d actually be hard-pressed to decide which would dominate, but to just stuff both next to each other is visually akin to wearing a babushka with a svelte black party dress, it’d look funny, IMO.

    • Posted by Brian M

      I would either buy or build a “Normandy Village” level of quality in the Storybook Style (this amazing apartment village just north of UC Berkeley. You have to see it!

      Or…I would build a new version of one of the Case Study Houses. I LOVE Pierre Koenig (RIP).

      • Posted by Zugamenzio Farnsworth

        I looked at both. I actually like both, in different ways…especially the Case houses in the Hollywood Hills(?) I could definitely hang in one of those for a long, long time, as long as i could bring along/select my own furnishings.

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