‘Twitter effect’ takes hold of San Francisco’s mid-Market area 

If the four decades of sluggish revitalization progress in The City’s mid-Market Street neighborhood are any indication, it will take more than street murals to fix the heart of San Francisco. The plight of the violent and run-down section of Market Street — roughly between Fifth Street and Van Ness Avenue — has been taken on by almost every mayor since the 1960s, but small efforts have not given way to many lasting fixes.

But now, a groundswell of investment in the area’s housing and business is reaching what Mayor Ed Lee calls a “tipping point.” The mayor wanted to make that point by locating his election campaign headquarters at Sixth and Market streets, easily one of The City’s grittiest intersections.

Click on the picture to see a map of mid-Market's new neighbors.

Lee is campaigning heavily on sparking a sort of condensed urban version of Silicon Valley. He is always quick to note his stewardship last spring of a mid-Market payroll tax break aimed at incentivizing the micro-blogging company Twitter to stay in town and relocate its headquarters to Ninth and Market streets. The tax break ensured there would be an anchor tenant, Lee says, and it is already spurring real estate investment.

“Transforming this area requires more than just The City, and this time we have those strong partnerships in place,” Lee said.

Zendesk, the first company to take advantage of The City’s “enterprise zone,” is now a neighbor of Lee’s campaign headquarters, the mayor announced on Tuesday. The flurry of mid-Market activity also includes New Urban Properties, which bought an office building in late June at Sixth and Market with the goal of luring tech companies that could take advantage of the tax break.

“It’s a smart move to be on that block,” said Tom Owens, the company’s owner. “When you look west, there you see them marching down Market Street — 2,000 more residential units coming on line.”

Nearly half of those new housing units are planned for an apartment tower across the street from the new Twitter headquarters. Having served as the dormant symbol of the housing crash for three years, the building site — owned by Miami-based developer Crescent Heights —  remains little more than a hole in the ground. But plans are moving forward again according to the company’s development manager, Casey Klein.

The area is also slated to get a new injection of students at 1321 Mission St. at the intersection of Ninth Street, where Berkeley-based developer Patrick Kennedy is seeking to set up contract housing with nearby educational institutions. Kennedy bought the building unaware of the Twitter deal, but said it hasn’t hurt his chances of success.

“It was just a bit of dumb luck, but the Twitter impact has been significant,” Kennedy said. “As soon as Twitter announced [it would stay], boom, those properties around there evaporated from the market.”


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Dan Schreiber

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