Decrepit block poised for rebirth 

Construction of a glass-draped mall filled with affordable retail outlets could kick-start a long-hoped-for renaissance of the economically wracked mid-Market Street neighborhood.

Plans to tear down three vacant Market Street buildings between Fifth and Sixth streets and replace them with CityPlace, a five-story mall, were approved Thursday by the Planning Commission.

The mall will be occupied by retail tenants that sell discount goods, electronics, sports equipment and other wares that are otherwise hard to find in downtown San Francisco, Urban Realty developer David Rhoades said.

The construction site lies at the junction of the low-income Tenderloin neighborhood, where shopping opportunities are generally limited to liquor and overpriced produce, and the glitzy Market Street shopping strip, which caters largely to tourists.

“This is a perfect fit for this stretch of Market Street,” Rhoades said. “[The idea] was to bring something to this block of Market Street that would really activate the street.”

The block is presently a magnet for crime, including a number of violent unprovoked attacks in the past year, largely because it’s flanked with long lines of vacant storefronts.

The construction plan is strongly supported by city officials and neighborhood activists.

That’s because the mall could increase foot traffic through the block and help breathe new life and activity into the downtrodden strip, potentially chasing away criminal activity.

The only major controversy related to the mall was based on the amount of underground parking that would be provided. Transit advocates argued that additional parking would increase congestion along Market Street — a corridor that city officials may ban cars on.

City officials are considering turning the mid-Market neighborhood into a redevelopment area, which would help the state borrow money to invest in facade, footpath and other improvements.

A previous plan to create a mid-Market redevelopment area collapsed because of disagreements about the amount of affordable housing that should be included within the neighborhood.

The stretch of Market Street has long been a focus of revitalization, with recent proposals that included a ballot measure to add billboards. That idea, which was rejected by voters in November, would’ve taken revenue from the signage to help fund a theater and arts district.

Mayor Gavin Newsom, who supported the approval of CityPlace, unveiled an $11.5 million loan program during his budget speech that aims to bolster the economic development and the arts in the central Market Street and Tenderloin neighborhoods.

Shiny new neighbor on Market Street

Details of the CityPlace project:

Location: 935-965 Market St., between Fifth and Sixth streets

Size: Roughly 250,000 square feet of new retail space

What is expected to occupy building: Intention is for affordable retailers; Ross clothing store has been given as an example.

Dates for project: Construction could begin as early as this year and could be complete by 2012.

Source: Urban Realty Co.

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