San Francisco has always been a city teeming with rich architectural diversity. The historic architecture of this city has captivated me for more than 23 years as a real estate agent and many of my affluent clients. There’s the extraordinary Beaux-Arts style architecture of glamorous Nob Hill, the magnificent mansions of stately Pacific Heights and its Gold Coast (home to “bluebloods and billionaires,” according to Vanity Fair), as well as the world-famous and colorful Victorians of Alamo Square. As of late, though, our favorite “City by the Bay” has been enriching its architectural diversity and expanding before our very eyes.
There are numerous new high-tech condominium developments sprinkled throughout the city.
One new modernistic SOMA high-rise, The Harrison, masterfully combines an interior reminiscent of “Old San Francisco” in ground central of “New San Francisco.” The 48-story, 298-unit luxury tower boasts interiors designed by the incredibly talented Ken Fulk, plus all of the chic lifestyle amenities that keep most well-heeled homeowners satisfied — like a fitness center, a conference room, a pool, outdoor terraces, an onsite concierge and a redesigned Sky Lounge where guests can “enjoy the company of world-renowned chefs, remarkable wine, art, and entertainment.”
On the other end of the spectrum is another fascinating example: The Pacific, the first new ultra-luxury new condominium development in Pacific Heights in decades. Bringing a new level of modern luxury to one of the world’s most desirable residential neighborhoods, The Pacific fuses the most sought-after amenities with personal service and classic elegance. Designed by Handel Architects, the building consists of just 76 residences, including a limited number of luxury flats, two-story penthouses and three-bedroom townhouses.
Several new glass towers are also popping up around downtown’s proposed Transbay Transit Center, the glorious-yet-controversial, 1.5 million-square-foot multimodal transit station will eventually (hopefully?) span five city blocks along Mission Street, near the Financial District. (Designed in the spirit of New York’s Grand Central Terminal and London’s Victoria Station by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, the futuristic structure is expected to be “the defining statement on San Francisco’s new cultural and architectural identity,” according to Curbed.)
At the same time, our historic architectural jewels are still very much in high demand. This elegantly appointed Presidio Heights mansion, for example, carries on the San Francisco tradition with interiors suitable for grand-scale entertaining, while the landscaped front and back gardens and surrounding brick walls create the feeling of an English country estate in the midst of the city with outlooks of the Bay and city skyline in the background. And of course, our classic Victorians will never cease being desired!
With all of these dynamics at play, I am beginning to wonder: are we becoming a tale of two cities? Can old and new live in harmony here? It’s a city where history is celebrated, after all. At the same time, entrepreneurial influences and new wealth continue to drive high-end development and architecture in exciting directions. It will be fascinating to see how this trend continues to play out in our rapidly evolving, magical San Francisco skyline.
About the Author: Joel Goodrich lives in San Francisco’s Nob Hill and works in the Pacific Heights office of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. The veteran luxury real estate agent has sold some of the most expensive homes in America, including the historic 35,000 square-foot Tobin Clark Estate in Hillsborough.