Blighted street seeing the light 

A French bakery and restaurant set to replace a pawn shop and liquor store near Market and Sixth streets will become the latest in a barrage of boutique businesses to move into the world-wearied neighborhood when it fires up its ovens this summer.

The City’s Redevelopment Agency has seen 22 new businesses move onto Sixth Street between Harrison and Market streets since 2003, slashing the strip’s retail vacancy rate from 43 percent to 15 percent and helping to knock liquor stores and other "adult businesses" out of the area, according to project manager Mike Grisso.

The next new business slated to open along the corridor is a French-themed bakery, cafe and bistro which has recruited its pastry chef from Paris, according to business owner Steve Barton.

Meanwhile, change also is sweeping through nearby streets.

The Warfield Theater will likely see improvements undertaken later this year, according to property owner David Addington.

Addington also owns a nearby building that houses The City’s largest pornography store. "There’s a chance that [Secrets Adult Super Store is] not long for this world," he said.

An increased police presence in the past nine months has helped chase off drug dealers and other "antisocial activities" that dissuade new businesses from leasing in the area, according to Addington.

"They’re not unpleasant people — they’re kind of nice," Addington said. "But if you’re from out of town and unaccustomed to seeing these sorts of things, the experience can be very unsettling."

Southwest along Market Street, modern-looking residential towers with 1,900 units are expected to open opposite the Orpheum Theater by 2010, according to developer James Sangiacomo.

In the opposite direction along Market Street, a five-story glass-fronted mall is scheduled to open between Fifth and Sixth streets by 2011, according to project manager Sean Thompson.

Nearby, the elegant but little-used sandstone-walled courtyard in the heart of the former U.S. Mint is expected to be roofed over and turned into a restaurant by 2012, according to facilities manager Art Ferretti. Mint Plaza opened next door in November.

The transformation is positive, according to Gabriel Metcalf, head of the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association. He described Market Street as San Francisco’s "most important street," in part because of the massive amounts of transit and transport that run through and beneath it.

"Private investment is starting," Metcalf said. "It’s time to match that with some public investment."

jupton@examiner.com

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