Monday, November 11, 2013

50 United Nations Plaza Resurrected

The block-long Federal building at the base of United Nations Plaza hosted a ribbon cutting last Wednesday after a four year, $122 million renovation job, funded through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The building was the final Beaux Arts masterpiece in the Civic Center neighborhood of local architect Arthur Brown, Jr. after he had already designed City Hall, the War Memorial Opera House and the Veterans Building, which is currently going through its own retrofitting and renovation.

The original structure was completed in 1936 in the midst of the Depression where it housed an entire alphabet of federal agencies.

When World War Two arrived, the entire building was requisitioned by the military, and Fleet Admiral Nimitz even had his own oval office above for ceremonial duties until his death in 1966. The building continued being used by a dwindling number of federal agencies over the decades until it was completely vacated in 2007, leaving yet another rotting architectural jewel in downtown San Francisco.

The building has not only been retrofitted for earthquakes, but there are new electrical, heating and plumbing systems in place that are designed to be more efficient and comfortable, and the new roof has been reconstructed to be an environmental showcase of solar panels and a living garden for stormwater abatement.

The bright, airy offices will be the new headquarters for the GSA Pacific Rim Region's approximately 500 employees, with the top floor to house a federal agency to be named later.

The ribbon cutting was preceded by speeches, starting with Pacific Rim Regional Administrator Ruth Cox (not pictured) who divided her remarks between praising President Obama and quoting from Saint Steve Jobs on dreams and innovation. She was followed by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (above left), who went on to praise San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee (above right) for completely renovating the neighborhood, which for those of us who actually live here is something of a bad joke. GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini (above middle) continued with praise for Mayor Lee, who possibly needed it after the shellacking at the polls he received a day earlier when voters rejected Propositions B and C. Lee spoke about how much San Francisco appreciated the federal money in the neighborhood. "If you give us Stimulus, San Francisco goes all the way with it," he stated at one point. Whether he meant that as a double entendre or not, it was still a very odd remark.

The best speech came from Michele MacCracken from HKS Architects above. She admitted that their original design for the renovation was "perfect" until they actually brought it to Hathaway Dinwiddie, the local construction contractors who told them their plans would push the cost $40 million over budget. "After a huge amount of back-and-forth, we ended up going with Plan 7C, and the result in its simplicity and beauty has been a revelation. We're very proud of the work."


Hattie said...

Why couldn't they have maintained it properly in the first place and kept it as it was instead of turning it into a fancy mausoleum?

Michael Strickland said...

Dear Hattie: Things fall apart. Plus, it really did require retrofitting for earthquakes.

AphotoAday said...

Oh lord, lord, lord... My ears perked up when I read this: "with the top floor to house a federal agency to be named later"
Soooo, this sounds like a call for suggestions of what that federal agency should be named. "Office of Endless Bullshit, Death and Destruction" pops first into my head.

Hattie said...

The retrofitting I can understand.

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