Port To Seek Proposals For Empty Space At Pier 29

By Geri Koeppel - Published on November 10, 2015.

Today, the Port of San Francisco is planning to ask the Port Commission for their OK to issue a request for proposals (RFP) on Pier 29, which would be another step toward connecting the dots for a fully revitalized waterfront. The meeting begins at 3:15pm on the second floor of the Ferry Building; the RFP is the final agenda item.

Pier 29, which was built as a maritime warehouse in 1915, was largely destroyed in a 2012 fire. It was rebuilt to host 2013's America's Cup festivities, but has been in limbo since the America's Cup declined to return to San Francisco for its 2017 event, choosing Bermuda instead.

Nearly 30,000 people live and work within a 10-minute walk of Pier 29, and the neighborhood has attracted more and more visitor foot traffic in recent years, thanks to the arrival of the Exploratorium and the Pier 27 cruise terminal. Port staff has said in several meetings that whatever goes into Pier 29 shouldn't compete with other waterfront uses, but rather complement them.

At the moment, it appears the Port is leaning toward trying to attract an artist or maker for the bulkhead—or front—space. That section, which housed pop-up restaurant Waiheke Island Yacht Club during the America's Cup, could welcome a tenant much sooner than the rest of the building, which needs seismic improvements.

The bulkhead of Pier 29 is marked by the number 1. (Graphic: Port of San Francisco)

At July's meeting of the Northeast Waterfront Advisory Group (NEWAG), Byron Rhett, the Port's director of planning and development, led a detailed presentation on plans to seek a tenant for the bulkhead. At the time, he said some ideas for Pier 29's bulkhead included arts, crafts and dry goods; innovators, open studios and galleries; public markets related to retail; exhibitions and cultural exhibition space; or live demonstrations, displays and studios. 

The detailed memorandum about the RFP appears to follow that line of thinking: 

Any proposed use(s) of the Site must be consistent with the Port’s Waterfront Land Use Plan (“Waterfront Plan”), which enumerates a variety of allowable uses at the Site, including retail uses. However, the RFP will specifically seek uses which focus on the creation and sales of arts, crafts and/or dry goods; including artists and designers working out of studio/exhibit spaces; innovators’ open studios; galleries; public and other markets; and ongoing exhibitions, cultural and exhibit space, including ancillary space for live demonstrations and displays. It is staff’s goal that this use augment the rich experience of visitors, businesses and residents in the Northeast Waterfront and highlight and promote that which is unique to our region and culture. 

Today's meeting agenda item has raised some eyebrows among NEWAG members, because the Port had indicated a few times that the community would have the opportunity for input before the RFP went out, which hasn't happened. “I think the neighborhood is very interested in that RFP and what is going to go in there, and I was expecting more follow-up,” said Bob Harrer, NEWAG member and president of the Barbary Coast Neighborhood Association.

Graphic: Port of San Francisco

The Port says that neighbors will still get their say. "This action is only asking permission from the Port Commission to issue the RFP through a competitive solicitation process," said Renee Dunn Martin, public relations manager for the Port, via email. "There will be plenty of opportunities for public input along the way before the Port finalizes a lease agreement at Pier 29."

In the memo, a timeline for the process is outlined. In December, site walk-throughs with prospective bidders will take place, with the deadline for submitting proposals is February 2016. The Port Commission will select a bidder by April 2016, and the Board of Supervisors will also have to approve the lease at a still-to-be-determined date. The Port declined to comment on how long the lease on the bulkhead is expected to run for the winning bidder.

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