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S.F. Tower Developer GLL Goes to Green Extreme


By J.K. Dineen
San Francisco Business Time
July 11, 2008


In the latest sign that Mission Street continues to thrive despite the
economic downturn, GLL Development & Management is pushing forward with a
27-story tower at 350 Mission St., a super green design that could be the
first San Francisco skyscraper to use non-biodegradable materials like
plastic bottles and Styrofoam in some places instead of concrete.

GLL, which also built 199 Fremont St., hopes to win planning approvals on
the $200 million Mission Street building by early 2009, which would allow
for construction to start in mid-to-late 2009, according to company
President David Wall. The developer will start marketing the building late
this month and is seriously considering building on a speculative basis.
"Right now my charter is to have it partially pre-leased, about 30
percent," said Wall. "However, it is possible that I will get approval to
go spec. If the city gave me approval today, I would push very hard to go
spec because I think we're in the right cycle."

The new tower would replace a five-story building Heald College occupies
on the corner of Mission and Fremont streets. If the tower is built
without a tenant in hand, it would be the third speculative tower rising
within two blocks of the proposed Transbay Terminal and Tower along the
burgeoning Mission Street corridor. Tishman Speyer is expected to complete
its 550,000-square-foot 555 Mission St. at the end of this year, and
Beacon Capital Partners received permits July 2 to start driving piles at
535 Mission St., which will be just under 300,000 square feet. Six months
away from opening, 555 Mission is over 50 percent leased, with DLA Piper,
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, and Sequoia Capital all signing significant deals.

At 27 stories, the 340,000-square-foot building proposed is shorter than
the current 550-foot height limit allowed and dramatically less than the
700 feet the proposed Transbay District rezoning would allow. But with its
relatively small lot -- about 19,000 square feet -- a higher building
doesn't work economically, Wall said. Going beyond 27 stories would
require a second elevator bank and force GLL to increase the "load factor"
-- the non-leasable portion of the building dedicated to elevators,
restrooms and mechanical rooms -- from 20 to about 30 percent.
"It just doesn't pencil," said Wall. "Believe me, I wish it did. Everybody
wants more height. Give me a larger parcel, and I'll get more height."
The green approach

While all proposed new office buildings in the city are striving for
certification from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy
and Environmental Design program, GLL says it is committed to achieving a
gold rating and hopes to create one of the first carbon neutral commercial
buildings on the West Coast. Besides environmental provisions that are
becoming increasingly common -- such as providing bike parking, harvesting
rainwater, and creating HVAC systems that only heat and cool areas that
are occupied -- the developer is hoping to use a new material Skidmore
Owings and Merrill engineers are developing called a Sustainable Form
Inclusion System. The system takes post-consumer recycled materials --
everything from plastic bottles to old recycled tires -- and uses it
instead of concrete to fill voids within the superstructure and
foundation. "Throwaway" materials, such as Styrofoam or plastic bottles,
which would normally sit in a landfill for centuries, both decrease the
weight of the building and add additional strength.

In 350 Mission St., the recycled materials used would be equal to
approximately 5,400 cubic yards of concrete -- equal to 600 truckloads or
enough to lay approximately 20 miles of residential sidewalk, according to Wall.

"David came to us looking for something unique and looking to create
something great," said Masis Mesropian of Skidmore Owings and Merrill, who
is designing the building with colleague Craig Hartman. "I think it's
going to be a wonderful urban space."

A special public realm

What the building may lack in height, the developers are hoping to make up
for with pioneering sustainable features as well as a dramatic public
space at the street level. The design lifts the first floor of office 50
feet above grade, creating a spacious public lobby with 90 linear feet of
space that will open up to the street, when weather permits, with folding
glass panels. A glass and wood "grand staircase" will connect the ground
floor with an additional mezzanine level facing the street, where an
upscale restaurant and bar will open onto the existing plaza at 45 Fremont St.

"We are trying to blur the line between what is the public realm and what
is the private realm," said Wall.

As an extension of the grand staircase, the architects have created a
stepped amphitheater within the lobby allowing informal lunchtime dining
and special event viewing. Digital lighting and metallic scrims will
create an "ephemeral cloud-like effect," and video art installations will
be projected in the lobby. A retail pavilion will be housed in a two-story
translucent glass oval, lit from below and culminating in a floating
cloud-like roof on which images, visible from the lobby, will be
projected. The developer is also looking into lobby benches that
automatically move. Bold statement

In addition to SOM, the development team includes engineers Flack + Kurtz
and Cornish & Carey Commercial. Cornish & Carey's Nick Slonek, Karl
Baldauf and John Cashin are handling the leasing of the building.
With the Transbay Tower slated to rise catty-corner from 350 Mission and
the Millennium Tower under construction across the street at 333 Mission
St., Wall said it was imperative to make as bold a statement as possible with the tower.

"It's a pretty powerful intersection surrounded by very tall buildings,"
said Wall. "It almost looks like it's in a bowl. Everything is converging
on Fremont and Mission because of the new Transbay."

Given the size limitations of the site, the plan seems to strive to make
the lobby "as gracious as possible," said senior planner David Alumbaugh.
"I do think they are working hard to connect the inside to the outside and
activate the public space to make it seem as public and open as possible," he said.

 

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