News Clipping Local architects are building big in Shanghai
Dan Levy []
San Francisco Chronicle []
September 7, 2003

With the ’90s boom a distant echo in this former boomtown, local design firms are looking elsewhere for the urban energy—and business opportunities—that once defined San Francisco.

Architects Kaplan McLaughlin Diaz, better known as KMD, have taken their search all the way to Shanghai.

One of China’s most storied cities, Shanghai is in the midst of rapid redevelopment as the Chinese make their historic move to a market economy.

Shanghai’s Old Town is being built up as a new center for business and shopping—and that’s where KMD won a commission to design a new building for the government-owned Jie Fang Daily News & Media Group.

The 19-story tower, clad in a glass skin and featuring indoor gardens, will be located near fabled Nanjing Road and have 110,000 square feet and a public plaza on the ground floor.

As with many Chinese architecture projects, the design carries symbolic meaning, said KMD Director Alex Wu.

“Jie Fang feels that they’re leading a democratic movement toward the future, so the transparency of the building is supposed to be welcoming,” Wu said. “Their old home, which is next door, is clad in stone.”

Let’s remember that the newspaper is a government organ, so it remains to be seen just how transparent the operation will be.

KMD hired feng shui expert L.T. Chen to help with the traditional Chinese art of manipulating surroundings. One of the design ideas still under discussion is to include a water feature in the building to complement the gardens.

No groundbreaking date has been set, but KMD hopes to start the project within the year.


In the current San Francisco environment—18 million square feet of empty space, 23 percent office vacancy rate and climbing—any crumb of good news will do.

Dan Mihalovich of the offers this: So far in the third quarter, more space has been leased by tenants in San Francisco than has been put on the market by landlords and sublessors.

Mihalovich said the figure for this so-called positive absorption is about 400,000 square feet.

But the broker is not predicting a market bottom. In fact, his mid-quarter stat seems more like a fluke, given that the market gave back 1.4 million square feet in the first two quarters.

Mihalovich believes that companies are not yet done contracting, which implies that more space will be available in the future.

“The weight of 18 million feet is still enormous,” Mihalovich said. “We’re going to need to see consecutive quarters of positive net absorption before we can conclude that we have stability.”


Three developers have made the short list to convert the Presidio’s old Public Service Health Hospital into a residential community.

Avalon Bay, Forest City and John Stewart/Related Cos. have been selected by the Presidio Trust to submit final proposals for the rehab project on the southern edge of the park near Lake Street and 15th Avenue.

The historic main hospital building, erected in the 1930s in the Georgian Revival style, has 173,000 square feet. Two nonhistoric wings total 125,000 square feet. In all, there are 400,000 square feet in the hospital district.

Executive Director Craig Middleton said the three finalists were whittled down from nine teams. Eventual development costs will be at least $60 million, with the trust aiming for annual rent payments of at least $1 million, he added.

Final developer proposals are due Oct. 22, with a public airing of the plans set for Oct. 29 at the Golden Gate Club in the Presidio.


The leathering of Union Square continues with the planned opening of a Longchamps store at 114 Grant Ave. in November.

The French luxury goods maker, known for its leather shoulder bags and handbags, will take 1,100 square feet on a 10-year lease. The rental rate with landlord City Center Retail Trust is $275 per square foot, real estate sources said.

Other tenants in the Francophilic building are Anne Fontaine and Mont Blanc.

Across the street is Hermes, another Gallic arrival that recently sunk its spurs in the Union Square district.


A record price for a skyscraper was set in New York last week when developer Harry Macklowe signed a deal to pay $1.4 billion for the General Motors Building in Midtown Manhattan.

The price for the Fifth Avenue tower works out to $800 per square foot, beating the previous record of $700 per square foot that Lehman Brothers paid for 745 Seventh Ave. in 2001.

The highest price ever paid in San Francisco was the July purchase of 500 Howard St. Cottonwood Partners investment fund of Salt Lake City paid $116 million, or $500 per square foot, said Colin Yasukochi of Grubb & Ellis.

© 2003 San Francisco Chronicle

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