Giants and TIshman Speyer pivot to market at Mission Rock
Developers of 28-acre project adjust with flex office space, life science labs and “superloos” for a “premium restroom experience”
As the last building in the Mission Rock project’s first phase goes vertical, development partners Tishman Speyer and the San Francisco Giants explained a few of their pandemic-related pivots to TRD, including converting plans for a more traditional office building into life science lab space, adding flex offices to a residential tower and creating Tishman’s first-ever office building with individual “superloos” for a “premium restroom experience.”
The 28-acre site, which is owned by the Port of San Francisco, has been in the development process for 13 years — with the Giants coming on as development partners in 2010. It is the first commercial real estate project for the baseball team, whose Oracle Park stadium is located just across McCovey Cove and can be seen from many vantage points in the development.
“We wanted to participate and make sure we created a space to be able to weigh in on what was going to be built across from us,” said Iowayna Peña, director of development and real estate for the Giants. “What better way to do that than to build it ourselves?”
In 2015, the project received a major boost when San Francisco voters approved Proposition D. That vote allowed building height limits within the development to increase from 40 feet to between 190 and 240 feet, depending on where the building is located.
The project will have 8 acres dedicated to open space that Peña said could become even more popular than beloved waterfront parks in the city’s northern neighborhoods, such as Crissy Field and the Marina Green.
“The sun is better on this side [of the city], so I’m told,” she said.
In 2018, the project was fully entitled, and the Giants selected Tishman Speyer as development partner. In November 2019, longtime Giants sponsor Visa announced the relocation of its global headquarters to Mission Rock, returning to San Francisco after a move down to the peninsula in 1985. Visa has said it plans to redevelop its Foster City campus for its product and technology groups and to close a smaller Palo Alto office.
Even amidst the pandemic, groundbreaking began on the Visa building and the first apartment building, dubbed The Canyon, in late 2020. The shell of the Visa building is now complete and “we’ve more or less turned it over to them” for interior work, said Peña. Tishman is also doing “a little extra work” to add irrigation and finish out the building’s bay- and stadium-view terraces, she said.
Visa’s name has “really helped to propel the project forward,” said Maggie Kaden, managing director at Tishman Speyer. The credit card company has never wavered in its commitment to fill the 13-story, 300,000-square-foot office building, she said, even as the city has struggled with high office vacancies since the pandemic.
While the Visa building has been a certainty since before shovels hit the ground, the other office building in phase one has undergone a major transformation. It is currently topped out and on its way to becoming “purpose-built lab space,” according to Kaden. The developers took note of the market changes going on during the building’s architectural drawing stage, with life sciences emerging as a bright spot for San Francisco lease ups and Mission Bay in particular a draw for lab space. They were able to stop work on the original plans for a traditional office and have the building redesigned to accommodate lab use, she said. That refocus gave the developer “momentum” to fund the building’s construction when the office market was “seeing signs of shakiness.”
Kaden could not reveal any new leases in the building but said the developers are in “pretty direct dialogue with some users” and that most tours were for life science tenants. They are also negotiating leases with six different groups for the ground-floor spaces in all four phase one buildings.
Renters in the lab building will also get to try out Tishman’s first office building with all individual “superloos,” which have a toilet, vanity and hand drying station in each separate bathroom, Kaden said. That “premium restroom experience” was a response to a need for both gender-neutral and more hygienic spaces where employees could wash hands before touching the bathroom door handle. It’s also an amenity that would be difficult for older office buildings to compete with, she said.
Another response to market demands was the inclusion of 30,000 square feet of flex office space in the final residential building of phase one, under Tishman’s Studio coworking brand. There will be a Studio Gather flex social space in the apartment building as well. The flex space was added in May of last year, Kaden said, and has been welcomed by office clients coming to look at lab space, who were excited by the idea of signing onto a smaller footprint, with room to expand or host work events as needed.
“Our Studio locations in the city had been performing really, really well,” Kaden said. “We were hearing from our customers that they wanted shorter lease terms and to be able to ebb and flow how many people they were accommodating in their work spaces. It felt like a good fit and amenity for Mission Rock, and the event space is kind of an added layer there.”
The as-yet-unnamed 254-unit apartment project, with 97 affordable units, is not due to be complete until May 2024, and Kaden said the developers were able to begin construction on the building in part because of their ability to “retain fees paid by the commercial buildings within Mission Rock” to the port.
“There were some unique elements of the Mission Rock structure and the public-private partnership with the port that helped to allow financially these buildings to move forward in a way that other projects are not able to pencil,” she said, referencing the oft-cited perfect storm of high interest rates, a volatile stock market and San Francisco’s distinction of having the world’s highest construction costs. “We are confident in what we’re delivering, but we’re not immune to those headwinds.”
Giants fans appeal
While that building is just starting to go up, the Canyon apartment complex is nearly complete and will begin accepting lottery applications for its 102 below-market units in January, Peña said. A temporary certificate of occupancy is expected by May, and move-ins are projected for early summer. The first two apartment developments in phase one will “chip away” at the 40 percent affordable housing the developers promised to deliver when the site’s 1,200 total rental units were approved, she said. Because the port is retaining ownership of the site, there are no for-sale units.
There will be 181 market-rate units in the complex, which is covered in an orange stone meant to recall the property’s inspiration, the Grand Canyon, without clashing with the Giants orange at the stadium on view from the property’s terraces and many of its units, Kaden said. Rents have not yet been set, she added, but will “meet the market” for the “condo-quality multifamily product” in a location that does “stand apart from where a lot of new product has been delivered to the city.”
Peña said she has heard a lot of interest from Giants fans, especially after the team put up a “leasing soon” ad on the scoreboard during a game. She thinks some people may use the apartment as a pied a terre on game days, but said the goal of the new mixed-use neighborhood is really to activate the area all year round.
“We’re creating space for folks to be able to actually live and stitch themselves into the fabric of the city on this end,” she said.