Back in the day–that would be 1898 when the Ferry Terminal was opened–the Terminal was the second busiest transit terminal in the world (ferry service was the only way to get from North Bay to the City), second only to London Charing Cross station. Then came construction of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, both completed in the 1930s, and folks started using automobiles, much to the detriment of the ferry lines.
Another major date was the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which did not damage the Ferry Terminal, but, thankfully, led to the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway, an impediment to the waterfront view and access. It was replaced by an expansive boulevard that reconnected the waterfront and Terminal to the rest of the city.
The Ferry Terminal was subsequently transformed into today’s Ferry Building, which houses a marketplace of 50 retail and restaurant spaces on the ground level, offices on the three floors above, and an outdoor farmer’s market that comes alive several times a week (a favorite of tourists and locals). Before Covid, ferries provided Bay transit to some 14,000 people each workday.
A notable feature of the Ferry Building is its original 1898 clock that was once the largest wind-up, mechanical dial clock in the world (it is now powered by an electric motor). The four dials are each 22 feet in diameter and there is a set of horn loudspeakers that play Westminster Chimes on the hour.
In the fall of 2018, Hudson Pacific Properties and Allianz Real Estate joined together and paid $291 million to control this 268,018 SF retail/office property. They also pay a ground lease fee to San Francisco Port Authority.
Rather than being “scraped” and having a new a high-rise take its place, this is a building that is more than 100 years old, known to every Bay Area resident and San Francisco visitor, and has been re-purposed to command some of the highest office lease rates in the city. Shall we label it iconic?
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