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San Francisco

Redesign Concepts Unveiled for Gene Friend Recreation Center

The 25-year-old Gene Friend Recreation Center at the corner of Sixth and Folsom streets is one step closer to receiving a major redesign. During a community meeting Thursday evening at the site, representatives from Rec and Parks, the Trust for Public Land and the architecture firm WRNS Studio unveiled four design concepts for a new layout.

While the project isn't fully funded just yet, the Trust for Public Land — which has partnered with Rec and Parks to redesign Boddeker Park, the Hayes Valley Playground and Balboa Park among other public space — has provided the funds to tackle the first three steps: a feasibility study to assess the existing infrastructure, surveying the community on its needs for the space and ideal layout, and developing a single design concept for the Rec and Parks Commission to consider funding.

Philip Vitale, a project manager with TPL, said all four concept designs incorporate the elements community members requested during three previous community meetings and multiple focus groups earlier this year. Those elements included: a formal lobby with one entrance to the center, indoor and outdoor basketball courts, more multipurpose space, a larger exercise room, a game room, and a space that could be used as a cafe or concession stand, and more windows for greater visibility from the surrounding streets.

The rec center's current facade on Sixth Street.

To ensure the potential new recreation center can accommodate the neighborhood's exploding population, Rec and Parks and TPL plan to make the new recreation facility two stories, which would allow them to nearly double the indoor space from 16,000 square feet to 27,000 square feet. And while the new design concepts recommend about the same amount of outdoor open space (24,000-28,000 square feet), they have not decided what types of materials will be used — a lawn, a plaza with greenery, playgrounds, etc — Vitale added.

The project team also considered the SFMTA's forthcoming traffic calming projects for Sixth and Folsom streets, and development projects the Planning Commission has already approved in the surrounding area when deciding where to place elements like the main entrance and the cafe, Vitale said. 

Below are each of the four design concepts with brief descriptions of their distinct features. The full presentation from Thursday's meeting is also available here. Individuals are encouraged to send feedback on the layouts to Vitale at philip.vitale@tpl.org. Community groups are also welcome to reach out to schedule an in-person focus group between now and Oct. 15th. 


In this first design, the entrances to the rec center and the cafe are located on Sixth Street to activate the block with foot traffic. The tallest portion of the structure — the indoor basketball courts — is at the corner of Sixth and Folsom, and the room would be lined with windows to allow for greater transparency along Sixth, Folsom and the outdoor open space.

All three multipurpose rooms are adjacent to each other on the second floor, and sound-proof curtains would allow for separating or combining the spaces. A game room and small terrace would also be accessible on the second floor.


With the second design, the cafe is located on Sixth near the corner of Folsom Street along with an "entry plaza" where outdoor seating could be placed. The indoor basketball courts would be located on Folsom Street, which would shade the playground in the afternoons. Additionally, two adjacent multipurpose rooms would be located on the first floor and one would be found on the second along with a game room and more outdoor open space.


The next design suggests driving foot traffic to Folsom Street by placing the rec center entrance and cafe near the corner of Folsom and Harriet streets, while using the indoor and outdoor basketball courts and a pair of multipurpose rooms with lots of windows to visually activate Sixth Street. Another multipurpose room at the corner of Folsom and Harriet streets would be able to open onto the playground, offering an indoor-outdoor experience, the architect, Brian Milman, stated.

Additionally, this design features an outdoor ramp that would take visitors from the first floor to an outdoor fitness center as well as a game and exercise rooms on the second floor.


The fourth and final design concept separates the rec center's main entrance and cafe to drive foot traffic to both Sixth Street and Folsom Street. With the different rooms grouped along Sixth Street, this is the most efficient use of space, Milman stated, and the cafe would be able to operate when the rec center is closed.

The next community meeting, in which the agencies will share one design concept for final feedback, is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 3rd. We'll let you know as soon as the date and time are confirmed.

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