A New Course for Mid-Market

Blight. Neglect. Crime. These are the words that come to mind when you think of San Francisco’s Mid-Market Street area. Once a hub of retail and the arts, Mid-Market has become four blocks of boarded-up storefronts in the middle of our city’s most significant transit corridor. After decades of failed attempts to revitalize the four-block stretch, San Francisco once again has an opportunity to set a new course for Mid-Market in the proposed CityPlace development, which will bring new retail, sidewalk improvement and pedestrian activity to the heart of Market Street.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors will vote whether or not to reject an appeal of the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The result will either jumpstart the project – and the areas transformation – or destroy one of our best hopes to revitalize Mid-Market in decades. As San Francisco continues to face high unemployment and declining tax revenues, the Board should take this opportunity to redevelop one of our city’s most neglected areas, while creating jobs and stimulating the economy.

Located on the south side of Market Street, between 5th and 6th Streets, CityPlace will bring a modern, new five-story building to Mid-Market. The glass-fronted building will include 250,000 square feet of value-based retail not currently found in other parts of the city. The project will also convert Stevenson Street, the alleyway directly behind CityPlace, into a corridor of small retail spaces for micro-vendors.

At the center of the Mid-Market area, CityPlace has the potential to accelerate the areas transformation and serve as an anchor for a revitalized community. Increased foot traffic will help improve safety by putting more feet and eyes on the streets. The development will also help attract other new businesses to the area. This activity, together with the new weekly Arts Market at U.N. Plaza and other projects in Mayor Newsom’s Mid-Market Revitalization Plan, will bring people and commerce back to this forgotten neighborhood.

Let’s not forget about the impact CityPlace will have on jobs. As over 40,000 San Franciscans remain unemployed, CityPlace is expected to create 250 construction jobs and 760 permanent retail positions. New retail and commerce will also generate significant tax revenue for the city. These employment and economic benefits alone should be enough to warrant the projects approval.

Yet, the future of CityPlace remains uncertain. The project’s opponents are aggressively working to kill the development and would rather see nothing change for Mid-Market. They claim the project provides too much parking and that it will not fit in with the “visual character” of the block. In reality, CityPlace includes only modest parking for a development of its size, and was planned to leverage Market Street’s abundant public transit options.

It is true that previous attempts to revitalize Mid-Market have failed for a variety of reasons. But now is the moment to change the course. Convenience. Commerce. Activity. These are the words that can come to mind about Mid-Market if the Board of Supervisors acts to reject the appeal to the CityPlace EIR.