A planned major renovation of the Moscone Center will mark the centerpiece of an effort to make San Francisco's South of Market, specifically the blocks surrounding the convention center, more pedestrian-friendly in the coming years.
A significant chunk of the $500 million project to renovate primarily Moscone South and the nearby area -- revealed to the public for the first time Thursday -- includes widening sidewalks and reducing parking and driveways at Howard and Third streets.
"This part of The City is not an area that is driver-friendly," Supervisor Jane Kim said after a presentation at the Moscone Center. "It's an area [where] we need people to walk and bike."
Mohammed Nuru, director of the Department of Public Works, which is managing the project, said a plan is also being studied to make the streets surrounding the center, including Howard Street, two directions for drivers.
Regardless of traffic changes, visitors and residents will have better open street-level access to the center, aligning with a greater effort to make the area more walker-friendly.
"Right now Moscone is kind of this wall from Howard to Folsom," Kim said. "People want to see a lot of the blocks broken up, more crosswalks, and less of a hardscape."
The outside of Moscone South will be replaced with a taller, glass-coated building featuring multiple outdoor terraces and an additional ballroom with city views. An indoor ballroom will remain intact.
The project will also add more than 8,000 square feet of public space, transform 20,000 square feet of parking into pedestrian-friendly space and replace the pedestrian bridge atop Howard Street.
Construction will be divided into three phases, the first of which primarily consists of excavating a block of dirt under Howard Street in the middle of the 260,000 square-foot exhibit hall beneath Moscone South and the 180,000 square foot hall under Moscone North to better connect the two spaces. The second and third phases will mainly include renovating the Moscone South building. Once completed, the Moscone Center will leave the smallest carbon footprint of any convention center in the U.S., said Craig Hartman, a partner with the project's architecture firm, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
The center will tap into the water supply generated from its foundation and harvest rainwater to avoid using any new water for irrigation and flushing, saving 5 million gallons of water annually, according to Hartman. It will also have the largest solar rooftop installation in San Francisco.
"All of these pieces are part of this plan to think about the environment," Hartman said.
Additionally, officials tout how the project will increase revenue and jobs for The City. The Moscone Center operates at capacity and stands to lose $2 billion in economic activity by 2020 without the expansion, according to project officials.
Kim also emphasized that the project considers the needs of both residents and visitors.
"Tourism is a really key part of our industry, but we want to make sure that whatever is built is also sensitive to the residents that live here," Kim said.
Public comment closed Monday for the draft environmental impact report, but an informational hearing on the project will be held July 24 before the final EIR is complete, said Lynn Farzaroli with the San Francisco Travel Association.
Following approval, construction is slated to begin in December and last four years.