New mission for Metreon 

The Metreon doesn’t count among the South of Market area’s ubiquitous short-term residential hotels, but you wouldn’t know that by the tenant turnover there.

From its trumpeted opening more than a decade ago as a theme park-style haven for gamers to an unfulfilled plan to house a famous New York City restaurant, the Metreon’s owners have struggled to find the right formula to make the building successful and attract long-term tenants.

Both city officials and the current owners are hoping their latest equation, one that will turn the hermetic first floor inside out and add a Target retail store to the second floor, will finally add up to a winner.

According to Target lead project architect Thom Lasley, the vision is for the big-box retailer to take over the second floor of the building and a large chunk of the first floor. The corner of the building at Fourth and Mission streets will turn into a glassy entrance lobby for Target, with a cafe that looks out through large windows and escalators that take customers to the store above.

Though the building itself doesn’t have any parking, Target is considering creating “guest-assisted” loading zones in pullout lanes immediately next to the sidewalk, said John Dewes, Target regional development manager. The chain store has implemented similar measures in other urban areas, he said.

Target’s plans aren’t the end of the building’s transformation.

Owner Westfield Group plans to redesign the ground floor so most of the individual stores along Fourth Street and Mission Street have entrances directly from the sidewalk, according to San Francisco Redevelopment Agency Executive Director Fred Blackwell. As it stands, customers must enter the building to access most of the ground-floor stores.

The main entrance to non-Target parts of the Metreon, including theaters on the third floor and the food court inside, will likely be on Fourth Street, Blackwell said.

“We also want to really take advantage of the back side, where you have the [Yerba Buena Gardens],” he said, “[and] integrate what’s happening in the building with what’s going on inside the building, so you have a better view from the gardens as to what’s going on inside. Right now, the spaces don’t really sync well.”

Westfield also plans to “highlight the food court [and] make that a much more attractive place for people who want to explore the food options there,” Blackwell said.

The building’s only successful long-term tenant, AMC Loews theater, will remain in its third-floor location, he said. There are still no plans for what may occupy the fourth floor.

“The fourth floor of the Metreon is a tough space to fill. It’s not at street level and it’s pretty big, so any restaurant would have be on the level of Tavern on the Green to be successful there,” Blackwell said, referring to the Manhattan restaurant that announced plans to move into the space last year but then declared bankruptcy.

Target announced its intentions to move into the Metreon, along with the vacant Mervyns store at Geary Boulevard and Masonic Avenue, at a community meeting held at the Mervyns site last week.

Dewes said the company doesn’t intend to hold a similar neighborhood meeting for the Metreon location because it’s not required by the Redevelopment Agency.

kworth@sfexaminer.com

What’s in the Metreon

Once anchored by the Sony store, the largest tenant now in the Mission Street building is a movie theater.

  • AMC Loews Metreon 16
  • Chronicle Books
  • NYS Collections
  • Point Break Live SF
  • Robert Cameron’s Aerial Photography
  • TILT

Source: Westfield Group

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John Upton

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