Final Harvey Milk Plaza renderings revealed; city review to begin next week

A rendering of the newly redesigned Harvey Milk Plaza. | Images: Perkins Eastman
By Steven Bracco - Published on October 09, 2018.

The final architectural renderings for a planned redesign of the Castro's Harvey Milk Plaza have been released, ahead of a city review process that begins next week.

New York-based architectural firm Perkins Eastman was selected in an international competition to redesign the public open space above the Castro Muni station, as it undergoes a required renovation to add an elevator in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Perkins Eastman's initial design was the subject of some community opposition, so the renderings were further evolved, with a set of semifinal designs released in May.

Over the course of the summer and fall, Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza (FHMP) hosted four community meetings seeking feedback and input. These latest designs are the result.

Having concluded the community-led design process, the FHMP will now take its renderings to various city departments for approval.

On Thursday, FHMP hosted a viewing party to showcase the new designs, including a fly-by animation of the concept created by Perkins Eastman. All the new renderings including the flyover are available on the project website.

"It was the beginning of a movement to honor Harvey, to lift him up as an example of the very best qualities of San Francisco, the Castro neighborhood, and the LGBT community," said FHMP's Brian Springfield of the event.

A revamped entrance to Castro Station, at Castro and Market streets.

The designs show placeholder artwork meant to honor Milk, but Springfield said the final art and artist will ultimately be chosen by the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC), which will review the plans at its Civic Design Review Committee Meeting on October 15. 

"Whatever the form becomes, the response will continue to be guided by the priorities expressed by the community over the last year and a half," he added.

The SFAC review process has three steps: after being reviewed by the Civic Arts Committee, the design will then go in front of the Public Arts Committee. Once the designs are approved by both committees, they will be recommended for review to the full Arts Commission.

While the Arts Commission can ask for changes and give feedback, Springfield described the process as more of a conversation between FHMP and the commission.

"One of our challenges was how to show these things that haven't been put out to a call for artists," he noted. However, the portions of the design featuring quotes from Milk are considered architectural designs, and not up for review.

Milk's famous 'Hope Speech' inscribed on the walkway.

In creating its vision for the plaza, Springfield said the FHMP adhered to four key tenets: addressing deficiencies present in the existing design, honoring Harvey Milk with a significant memorial, providing a public space for the Castro community and ensuring the plaza is accessible to all.

Many community members have criticized a key aspect of the project: the addition of an elevated terrace overlooking Castro Street (pictured at top). The terrace is meant to serve as a gathering place, but opponents have argued that it would attract unwanted behavior and crime.

"It's not an issue of 'If we build this, there's going to be unwanted urban behavior in the plaza,'" Springfield said in response. "That is already going on today ... This is our chance to address the known deficiencies in the existing site that are actually making the problem worse, like the underground subterranean forest."

He also noted that the revamp will come with security improvements, like a security gate on the canopy that will allow the Muni station to be closed at night.

A security gate will allow for the entrance to be closed at night.

Once the designs are approved by the Arts Commission, they will move on to review by SFMTA, BART and several other city agencies.

The best-case scenario, Springfield said, "is to have construction documents complete by summer of 2019." He was unsure how long it would take to accept contractor bids, award the project and finish construction.

We'll keep you updated as the project continues to move through the approval process and beyond. 

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