The plan to put the long-awaited $1.6 billion Mission Rock development on the cold, desolate parking lot across the channel from AT&T Park is nearly complete, and the prospective landlords couldn't be happier.
While the term sheet laying out the financial details of the development agreement with the San Francisco Giants won't come before the Port Commission for approval until late next month, the commissioners sound ready to sign on the dotted line.
"It's been a long process and project," said Commissioner Kimberly Brandon after listening to a presentation on the project at Thursday's meeting. "It's great to see where we are now."
The development, now scheduled to break ground in 2015, would put an entirely new neighborhood on the 16-acre waterfront site known as Seawall Lot 337, providing space for 2,000 residents, 7,000 workers and hordes of visitors to the area's planned parks, restaurants, shops and attractions.
"It's an important piece of land, sort of the hinge between the southern waterfront and South of Market," Jack Bair, senior vice president and general counsel for the Giants, told the commission. "Our project will bring activity and vibrancy to the (Mission Bay) area that's not there with a surface parking lot."
Plans call for the Mission Rock project to be the architectural antithesis of the bulky, monolithic boxes and towers that make up much of the surrounding neighborhood. While the development features a pair of slender towers that could rise to 380 feet, the site will be designed as an urban village, with narrow streets, short blocks, and buildings of varying sizes and looks, many of them fronting the planned 5-acre China Basin Park or the 1.3-acre park/plaza in the center of Mission Rock.
"This will be a very pedestrian-oriented development, unlike Mission Bay, where it takes a long time to walk anywhere," Bair said.
The Giants have been interested in developing the parking lot almost since AT&T Park opened in March 2000. Since then, the team's owners have seen the down-at-its-heels neighborhood surrounding the ballpark transform into one of the hottest, hippest parts of the city, but haven't shared in the financial bounty.
The new project is a chance not only to guide development of its next-door neighbor, but also to inject some cash into the team's coffers, as Giants President and CEO Larry Baer freely admitted when he unveiled the plans for the project last April.
"We've been very open about the fact that for the Giants, we need to create revenue," he said at the AT&T Park event. "Players aren't getting any cheaper."
The port, with aging facilities and plenty of high-dollar needs of its own, also is looking for cash and hopes the Mission Rock development will bring it in.
While the Giants now pay about $2.4 million a year to lease the parking lot from the port, the rents, leases, sales taxes and other income from a fully built-out Mission Rock will boost that number substantially.
"With an unparalleled location at the gateway to the Port's working southern waterfront, the project site is of vital importance to the Port and to the City," Monique Moyer, the port's executive director, said in a memo to the commission. The project "provides a unique opportunity to participate in the success of up to 10 new development parcels that would support the long-term welfare of Port infrastructure."
While the Giants originally had five partners when the port awarded their group the rights to the parking lot in 2009, they became the sole developer in September when the Cordish Co., the lone remaining partner, pulled out of the deal.
"We will live with the project that we will develop," Bair told the commission. "We're not going to finish it and move to the next project."
Approval expected soon
The complex financial agreement in the term sheet, which spells out exactly who pays for what and when, is scheduled to go before the commission for approval at the Feb. 26 meeting. Bair hopes to have the Board of Supervisors approve the term sheet by April, which will allow the Giants to start the two-year process of preparing an environmental impact report on the project and collecting the many state, local and federal approvals needed for any waterfront project.
Construction on the first phase, probably along Third Street, could begin in 2015 and be completed by 2017, Bair said. Depending on economic factors, the entire project could be up and running by 2022.