Construction has begun on San Francisco's historic Pier 70 project. At a May 10 groundbreaking ceremony, Cleveland-based Forest City Realty Trust Inc., the project’s developer, joined city officials to launch work on the estimated $2 billion waterfront development.

"Along the waterfront, imagine people dining at restaurants and bars, and a cultural arts building that opens up onto to an expansive lawn where residents are enjoying a concert. Meanwhile, people lounge on oversized porch swings taking in views of the Bay Bridge and downtown San Francisco," said Forest City Sr. Vice President Jack Sylvan in a news release. "This is an inspired location where people will want to be."

Pier 70's 28-acre site is a public-private partnership project between the Port of San Francisco and Forest City, and is one of several sub-divisions the Port is managing or is developing at Pier 70 along San Francisco's Central Waterfront adjacent to the Dogpatch neighborhood. The city unanimously approved the project last November after ten years of planning.

Planned project highlights include 1,100 - 2,150 residential units, including 30 % on-site affordable of which about 65 % will be rental units. There will also be seven acres of new parks and open space; 900,000 - 1.75 million sq-ft of commercial space, with up to 360,000 sq-ft of local retail and services, arts and light industrial space. Three historic structures will be rehabilitated, including Building 12, which will return as a modern hub of light industry and craftsmanship where products are made and sold.

A state-of-the-art waterfront arts facility of up to 90,000 sq-ft will include new artist studio space for the Noonan Building creative community currently onsite. Approved plans also call for an extensive transportation management program. Official say the project is expected to generate more than 10,000 construction jobs, built in partnership with the Building and Construction Trades Council, and 12,000 full-time jobs. The project will be built in three phases over 15 to 20 years.

Forest City also unveiled designs for Pier 70's new waterfront parks that were created in partnership with James Corner Field Operations, renowned for their work on New York City's High Line. Echoing the site's maritime history, the designs show a network of open spaces from the center of the project to the waterfront that feature public art, such as large steel frames that define bay views, terraced lawns, promenades that jut into the water, meadow plantings and tree lined areas.

The Pier 70 project took just six months to go from project approvals to start of construction, representing the fastest master planning project in city history, say officials.

The initial phase of work involves building an entirely new infrastructure, then rehabilitating historic buildings, creating parks and open spaces to reopen public access to the waterfront, building affordable housing, and creating space for artists, local manufacturing and commercial uses. Construction of the first new buildings is anticipated in late 2019. Both the parks and initial buildings in Phase 1 are anticipated to be completed in 2021 and 2022.

Unique construction features in Phase 1 include creating protections against possible sea level rise. The grade of the entire 28-acre site will be raised. As part of that the sea-level rise plan, Forest City will elevate the 120,000 sq-ft, historic Building 12 nearly nine feet. 

Most of Pier 70 is a 69-acre property owned by the Port of San Francisco and is listed on the National Register as the Union Iron Works Historic District. It is considered one of the most intact industrial complexes west of the Mississippi. As headquarters for both Union Iron Works and Bethlehem Steel, Pier 70 was home to ship repair operations from the time of the Spanish American War in 1898 through today. The pier also supported multiple US war efforts and was instrumental in the evolution of industrial architecture in San Francisco.

Forest City is the developer of the Waterfront Site, an approximately 28-acre portion of Pier 70 that sits between 20th and 22nd Streets, Illinois Street and the Bay.