Aug 29, 2013
THEME: Point of View

Short-Term Smiles, Long-Term Plans: Transforming a San Francisco Corner

Vacant for more than 20 years, the old Hibernia Bank building at Jones and McAllister Streets is a grand but neglected structure that serves as a reminder of the Tenderloin neighborhood’s better days. Despite being a home to thousands of families and hardworking adults, the Tenderloin suffers from a reputation as the most dangerous neighborhood in the city – with the associated trappings of that status like a high rate of homelessness and street-level drug trade. For those families and workers, the majority of area residents, there was a need for an “outdoor living room,’ something to attract positive attention and help restore neighborhood pride of place.

The Jones Neighborhood Nexus – a program born out of the Pavement to Parks movement – is a long-term vision for the triangular intersection of Jones, McAllister and Market, arguably one of the worst street corners in San Francisco. The proposal reshapes the pedestrian path, diverts traffic flow, and injects programming that activates the street in an attempt to resurrect the neighborhood that is characterized by the faded glory of the façade and copper dome of the vacant Hibernia Bank.

The Hibernia Bank Building (center) sits at the heart of the site.

In order to get the word out about the proposal for the Jones Neighborhood Nexus, Perkins+Will joined with The Boys & Girls Club of San Francisco and Youth Spirit Artworks to hold a community art day at the intersection. The Jones Neighborhood Nexus was reinvented as a painted mural, which highlighted the Tenderloin neighborhood as a quilt – every child brings their cultural background to this unique urban place and the composition of all those parts is what gives the neighborhood its identity. The goal of this community art event was to spark a dialogue about transforming this important intersection in the Tenderloin and inspire the Jones Neighborhood Nexus long-term vision and implementation. With over 30 children from the neighborhood participating, it was a very successful event that points the way to a new direction for San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks program. 

A collaborative effort between the San Francisco Planning Department, the Department of Public Works, the Municipal Transportation Agency, and the Mayor’s Office, the larger Pavement to Parks program sprang from a desire to reconsider what streets mean to the city. It began with low-cost, easily reversible plazas in unused portions of several different right-of-ways across San Francisco. Embraced by the community, many of these plazas are now being made permanent, and other plaza locations throughout the city are being discussed for the future.

With projects like the Jones Neighborhood Nexus, Perkins+Will hopes to push the Pavement to Parks concept beyond “greening” underutilized parking spaces. We envision spaces based on ideas grown out of a community’s needs: public spaces that generate a stronger bond between people and place.

The site, post-transformation.

This post was authored by Andrew Wolfram.

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Our Social Resposibiliy Initiative (SRI): In order to spark local community impact, Perkins+Will created a Social Responsibility Initiative program. Every year, the firm contributes the equivalent of a 15-person firm working full-time to provide pro bono services to organizations in our communities who would otherwise not have such access. The Jones Neighborhood Nexus is just one of the latest examples of Perkins+Will’s SRI projects.

The team that helped pull it together.

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