At the heart of the project is a makeover of Pier 70 at the foot of Potrero Hill where 18,000 people worked during World War II. ABC7 News looks into the plan to move forward, without forgetting the past.
The Gold Rush was still in full swing when Pier 70 became a major ship building and repair port for the West Coast. It played a major role in the building of the country's fleet during the Spanish-American and both World Wars. Steel made there helped build the west, supplying everything from mining operations to the Transcontinental Railroad.
"Steel from Bethlehem helped support the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, the last major infrastructure project was the construction of the BART Transbay Tube in the Union Iron Works machine shop," said David Beaupre from the Port of San Francisco.
Big ships still come to Pier 70 for repairs, but other industries that once flourished there have moved on, leaving a lifeless 69-acre stretch of waterfront. The port is hoping to change that with a $242 million revitalization plan to bring thousands of people back to Pier 70.
"It will be a dramatic change. It will ideally be a new destination for San Franciscans and also for people of the region to come and enjoy and understand the history of the site," said Beaupre.
The plans call for new shops, restaurants, and small manufacturing facilities. Where ships once launched, there will be a new bay front park.
Developer Forest City will develop a third of the pier. It hopes to build 1,000 apartments and more than two million square feet of office space. So far there has been little opposition from neighbors. The developer says it wants the project to fit into the surrounding neighborhood.
"We really see a great opportunity at Pier 70 based on the history of the site and the remaining historic buildings to create a locally inspired waterfront," said Jack Sylvan from Forest City Development.
It may take as long as three years for Forest City to hammer out the details with the port. In the meantime, the city has already signed off on a $100 million project to fix up half a dozen buildings.
"Our job is to come in and basically make them safe and then lease them out and bring them back to life," said James Madsen from Orton Development.
Orton Development will also work on the project. It imagines an old power plant could become a restaurant. Offices of that once housed steel executives could be where new industries are created.
Each of these old building presents its own challenges. The Union Iron Works machine shop was built in 1885 and is the size of two football fields.
"We've been advised by the port that it's at risk for imminent collapse, so the first thing we'll do is we'll come in and shore this building up so that if there is an earthquake, it won't be lost," said Madsen.
Orton hopes to begin work later this year. The port wants to break ground on the new park in 2014 and Forest City is aiming to start work in 2016. The city says together, these projects will help remake Pier 70.
"The idea is to really bring Pier 70 back to its historic levels of activity by both creating a new job center, as well as getting residents here so you have a vitality down here 24-hours a day," said Kelley Kahn from the San Francisco Mayor's Office.
The project is expected to take 10 to 20 years to complete. The developer will hold an open house on Saturday.
Written and produced by Ken Miguel