MBH Architects completes San Francisco mixed-use development

MBH Architects completes 300 Grant Ave, marking the first new ground-up development in San Francisco’s Union Square in over 20 years. Image courtesy MBH Architects
MBH Architects completes 300 Grant Ave, marking the first new ground-up development in San Francisco’s Union Square in over 20 years.
Image courtesy MBH Architects

California-based MBH Architects has completed 300 Grant Ave, a ground-up, 6503-m2 (70,000-sf) retail and office mixed-use development located in the heart of San Francisco’s downtown shopping district.

The Lincoln Property Company development will breathe new life and opportunity to the prominent corner of Grant Avenue and Sutter Street, which sits at the gates of Chinatown. The site boasts approximately 2611 m2 (28,100 sf) of retail and 3855 m2 (41,500 sf) of Class A office space.

Sitting within the historic Kearny/Market/Mason/Sutter Conservation district, 300 Grant Ave is distinguished by its affinity within the Union Square area, inspired and defined by classical proportions and modern detailing. As the first ground-up development completed in Union Square in over 20 years, 300 Grant Ave signifies an important architectural and economic milestone in the neighborhood’s history, exemplifying the architecture that will shape San Francisco’s 21st century landscape.

“Union Square is in many ways a representation of San Francisco itself, with its large and small, tall and short, colorful and quaint buildings, all standing shoulder to shoulder in incredible harmony,” said John McNulty, founding principal of MBH Architects. “Engaging with this sense of rhythm was one of our design goals; we were intent on bringing to life a building that is complementary to the neighborhood and adds to the enjoyment of walking and being in the area.”

The six-story building houses three levels of boutique office spaces above three floors of high-street retail spaces in the city’s premier shopping destination. Floor-to-ceiling windows bathe the interiors with natural light, while horizontal scrim with a terra cotta finish, wrapped around the top four floors, provide a sense of privacy and sunlight diffusion. In an effort to meld the public areas with the private tenant spaces, the formerly underutilized side alley—Harlan Place—was transformed into a publicly-accessible parklet, complete with permanent and temporary seating and a wind-generated public art component, created by local artist Ned Kahn.

A project originally conceived in 2004, MBH Architects was initially commissioned by the first prospective developer to undertake a design assessment for the site. In 2014, Lincoln Property Company became the official developer, tapping MBH to realize their vision of a mixed-use retail and commercial office. As the architect, MBH worked to ensure the development stayed below the high-rise safety requirements of the building code while providing a design-forward space on-par with the prospective retail and technology-company tenants. MBH also brought on board historic architects, Page & Turnbull, to help achieve this goal.

“Our collaboration with Page & Turnbull brought forward the design concepts that clearly respected the past, while also encapsulating how current building technology and sustainable architecture could be effectively woven within the fabric of the exterior design,” said McNulty.

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