How the San Francisco skyline will change

August 2, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Remember the Embarcadero freeway? Officially, it was Interstate 480. It was a double-decker highway that cut through San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood, and along the waterfront. It's been 22 years since it was torn down, after the Loma Prieta earthquake. The freeway rubble is long gone and has been replaced with businesses, condos and skyscrapers, but the building boom isn't over. ABC7 News took a look at how the city skyline is still changing.

If you drive through San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood, you'll see a whirlwind of construction.

"This is going to be the biggest change to the San Francisco skyline since I think the mid-80s," said Gabriel Metcalf, the SPUR executive director.

Metcalf is with SPUR, a non-profit that advocates for smart urban renewal. He says San Francisco is about to burst with new development.

Most of that new construction centers around one particular site that looks like just a big hole in the ground now -- the Transbay Terminal. It will be the Grand Central Station of the West, linking high speed rail, Caltrain, and eight bus lines from around the Bay Area, all under one roof. A four-block-long public park will top it off. An animation of it was provided by the terminal planners to show what the center will look like when it is completed in 2017.

"The idea for the Transbay Transit Center was to create a national model for a transit-oriented development to make transit more accessible, and available, and to surround that transit access with high density development," said Scott Boule from the Transbay Joint Powers Authority.

In the 1980s, San Francisco saw a backlash against high density projects. Critics worried new high rises would shade parks, threatened views, and lead to the Manhattanization of the city. But since the 1980s, the demographics have shifted significantly in the city and so has public opinion.

Next to the terminal, developers will build the centerpiece of the new development. The Transbay Tower will rise more than 1,000 feet, making it the tallest and most visible building in the city.

"Development around the site is really beginning to move forward, just in the one block radius around the transit center, we've got four buildings that are either under construction or about to be under construction," said Boule.

Nearly two dozen projects have been approved between Second Street and the bay. Architectural renderings show some of the projects currently under construction or about to break ground.

It includes the Lumina, 655 luxury condominiums at Main and Folsom streets. Construction started last month, they'll go on sale next June.

"Putting housing and jobs together in a dense urban environment where people can interact and have that kind of spontaneous interaction, is what people crave," said Carl Shannon from Tishman Speyer.

Written and Produced By Ken Miguel