The Port of San Francisco and the city’s Dept. of Public Works has selected a design team consisting of Kaplan McLaughlin Diaz Architects, Pfau Long Architecture and cruise consultant Bermello Ajamil & Partners of Miami to submit a contract for approval for the conversion of Pier 27 into a new, modern cruise terminal.

Port spokeswoman Renee Dunn Martin says this team beat out nine other firms that applied. It’s not a done-deal yet, she says, until the port and the DPW negotiate a fee proposal. A recommendation is due at the Port Commission’s next meeting on Oct. 27.

A new terminal has been bandied about in San Francisco for years. The current cruise terminal at Pier 35 gives international cruise passengers a poor first impression of the city by the bay. The structure is old, crumbling, cavernous, with an exterior and roof covered in sea gull leavings.

San Francisco’s cruise business brought more than 250,000 visitors to the city in 2008. They contributed more than $65 million to the regional economy and more than $900,000 to the city’s general fund, according to the port.

In January 2007, the port established the Cruise Terminal Advisory Panel to evaluate the “necessity of a new primary cruise terminal, determine its value to San Francisco, recommend where the new terminal should be located and what steps should be taken to implement the development of a cruise terminal project.”

The panel put together a consultation team lead by BAE, and including EDAW, DMJM Design (ports and maritime group), CHS Traffic Consulting and Robin Chiang & Co. In September 2007, the panel recommended moving the terminal to Pier 27.

In 2008, the port prepared preliminary site planning alternatives for Pier 27. In June 2009, the port entered into a memorandum of understanding with the San Francisco DPW for the Pier 27 cruise terminal project management, architectural and engineering services through schematic design.

Located at The Embarcadero and Lombard St., Pier 27 encompasses 10 acres and its 1,358-ft-long berth can accommodate the largest of the mega-cruise ships (in the 4,400-passenger range). The pier substructure, says the port, is generally in good condition, though some pier repairs are needed.

As part of the new terminal, the port will develop a new two-acre plaza adjacent to the Embarcadero Promenade known as the Northeast Wharf. The construction of the new plaza would involve the removal of about 56,000 sq ft of the Pier 27 shed and the Pier 27 annex office building from the north edge of Pier 23 through the southern portion of Pier 27 to The Embarcadero/Lombard Street intersection. The removal of these structures will open up public views of the bay from the Northeast Plaza, as well as from adjacent areas. New commercial uses are anticipated to be included as part of the Pier 27 cruise terminal project, which can be designed to help activate the Northeast Wharf and provide services to plaza visitors on a year-round basis.

The port says the terminal will be built and managed with a combination of the highest sustainable design and day-to-day environmental practices. Reuse of the existing pier and shed, building to LEED practices and aiming for a carbon neutral terminal will ensure the least initial environmental impact. Also planned are use of extensive daylighting and utilizing the roof for solar and wind energy capture Shoreside power hook-up, gray and black-water connections, stormwater management, and employee public transportation options will allow efficient and clean ongoing operations.

The preferred design is expected to be chosen by next year, and in 2011 should be finalized and permits obtained. Construction is scheduled to start in early 2012, and the new cruise terminal will open in 2013.

Meanwhile, in other port news, the Port Commission approved a 66-year lease to move the city’s Exploratorium from the Marina District to Piers 15 and 17. More state and local approvals are needed before the pier reconstruction project can begin. Project construction costs are estimated at $175 million. San Francisco-based EHDD Architecture is the project architect.