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What Development Should Be Allowed in Crissy Field? Three Projects Contend for Coveted Spot

| September 20, 2013
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What cultural development should go in Crissy Field? Simon Tunbridge/Flickr

What cultural development should go in Crissy Field? (Simon Tunbridge/Flickr)

When Sports Basement moves out of its Presidio location in the old commissary building across from Crissy Field, the highly-coveted waterfront spot will be open for development. Right now, there are three proposals – narrowed down from 16 originally – vying for the location.

KQED’s Forum discussed the proposals on its show on Thursday, Sept. 19.

The area was not always in such high demand. “Fifteen years ago, it was mostly old military buildings and parking lots,” said John King, urban design critic with the San Francisco Chronicle.

Now, as the Presidio Parkway project is underway (it’s slated for completion by 2015), the spot occupied by the commissary building will be the final piece of a revitalized waterfront. All that’s left to do is decide what cultural institution would fit in the area. The Presidio Trust, which manages the area, is considering the projects and will take public comment before making a decision this fall.

But, don’t worry. Sports Basement itself will move to other buildings in the Presidio, said King – apparently the question he gets the most email about.

When the Presidio Trust asked for proposals, there were a number of project goals outlined:

- enhance the visitor experience
- provide programmatic offerings that connect to broader themes and stimulate creativity
- be compatible with the natural and cultural setting
- complement the current uses of the Presidio
- welcome a broad cross-section of the community
- be economically viable

This is no easy task. The three final projects – in the approximate order of the likelihood King gave them of succeeding – are:

The Presidio Exchange: The proposed park-based cultural center would have exhibits and installations, events and programs, residencies, and daily offerings – all Presidio-based and themed. It would be operated by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, which has a track record working in the area and raising money, said King. The Conservancy runs cafés in the Presidio and the Lands End Visitor’s Center and also worked on the restoration of Crissy Field a decade ago.

The Presidio Exchange is a proposed cultural center.

The Presidio Exchange is a proposed cultural center.

The building will be shaped like an X, said Greg Moore, president and CEO of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, to give as many views of the outdoors as possible, with indoor-outdoor space. Moore compared the project to the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, where people can sit and be inspired by the beauty. “Our Half Dome is the Golden Gate Bridge,” he said. The project, he said, will give visitors the chance to “continue to be inspired and enjoy the beauty of the surroundings.”

Moore listed a number of partners who have expressed interest in working with the Presidio Exchange, including National Geographic, California Academy of Sciences, the Aspen Institute, Walker Art Center, and Stanford’s Bill Lane Center for the American West.

Read the full project proposal.

Lucas Cultural Arts Museum: George Lucas, who already has experience in the Presidio developing the Letterman Digital Arts Center, spoke vehemently in the New York Times against the Presidio Trust dragging its feet and criticizing his taste in architecture. “They hate us,” Lucas is quoted as saying.

“Lucas has very specific proposal to showcase the art he has collected over the years,” said King, which includes pieces from Norman Rockwell, Maxwell Parrish and more recent digital art. “It’s not only this incredible collection of American art,” said David Perry, spokesperson for the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum, but will bring in traveling exhibits and rotate collections, as well has have educational programs. Lucas has also promised to create an endowment for the project and pay for the $300 million construction. “We’re talking about a $1 billion project for the nation,” said Perry. “We’re just hoping that they say thank you.”

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“Then the question becomes is there really any reason this should be in the Presidio and on Crissy Field?” said King – as opposed to anywhere else. In fact, Lucas threatened in the New York Times article to take his plan to Chicago if he’s rejected.

Read the full project proposal.

Bridge/Sustainability Institute: Along with rotating and permanent exhibits on sustainability, the building will be an example of sustainability. There will be a café with sustainable foods, outdoor gathering spaces, and a marketplace that will rank products in terms of sustainability, said Jeff Warner, architect and founding partner with WRNS Studio, which is planning the project.

The institute will be “the public face for institutions of research from all over the world,” said Warner, which will then highlight their research with different exhibits.

While Warner said they’ve gotten some criticism about the narrow focus of sustainability – for example, someone asked him previously how much could they really say about tomatoes. But, Warner said the project will be much broader than that. “It’ll take a deep look at the things that affect us on a daily basis,” he said.

The Bridge/Sustainability Institute would focus on sustainability issues.

The Bridge/Sustainability Institute would focus on sustainability issues.

The project is led by Chora, a museum-consulting firm, and WRNS Studio. WRNS has experience working at the Presidio, said King, with previous work on the ultimately failed Fisher Contemporary Art Museum project. Though money has not yet been raised to fund the proposal, Warner said they’ve had a number of conversations, but many of the donors are waiting until the final decision from the Presidio Trust. “We have every confidence that we’ll be able to raise the resources,” he said.

But, of the three proposals, the project is a “long shot,” said King.

Read the full project proposal.

On Sept. 23 at 6:30 p.m., the teams will offer public presentations of their final proposals, followed by a question and answer session at Herbst in the Presidio (385 Moraga Ave.). On Oct. 24 at 6:30 p.m., the Presidio Trust Board of Directors will take public comment at a regular meeting on the final proposals.

Listen to the full Forum show, with comments from residents.

What do you think should go in the location?

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Category: Architecture, San Francisco, Tourism

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About the Author ()

Kelly O'Mara is a writer and reporter in the San Francisco Bay Area. She writes about food, health, sports, travel, business and California news. Her work has appeared on KQED, online for Outside Magazine and in Competitor Magazine, among others. Reach Kelly O'Mara at kdomara@KQED.org.
  • TruthSerum

    I go with Presidio Exchange.

  • gratefulpezhead

    Presidio Exchange

  • r sher

    ummmm a sporting goods store?? no? okay – “prez-ex”