Market Street – San Francisco

  • Posted on: 21 August 2017
  • By: Susanne Wrighton
Market Street, San Francisco, USA

The Market Street connects San Francisco Bay to the hills of the city, and downtown businesses to the surrounding neighbourhoods, and is therefore ideally located. It is one of the West Coast’s most iconic streets, but hasn’t realized its full potential. Hence, the city hired Gehl Architects in 2010 to lead the urban design that will reinvigorate Market Street as San Francisco’s civic, cultural and economic centre.

State and federal funding was the initial impulse for the project to improve transit speed and reliability as part of a repaving project. Gehl’s methods involved redressing the balance between an exclusive focus on traffic planning and creating places for people.

As start of the project Gehl Architects collected hard facts about the people who used Market Street and the surrounding neighbourhoods. They gathered facts about how many people used the public transport on and below Market Street and how many people walked along the street on a daily basis. Furthermore, they found out that 75% of the stationary time on the street was spent waiting for public transport. The sidewalks and squares were not used to walk, talk, enjoy or to participate in the city life.
With the help of the city and the other consultant teams, Gehl gathered input from local communities through public hearings, workshops, lectures and also social media and on-line debates. The basis for the “Our Market Street” vision were the thoughts and ideas of the people to make a more inviting, inclusive and liveable city space.

Gehl’s design created a canvass for the unique culture and life of each of the six neighbourhoods along the Market Street to be expressed. To break the visual monotony of the street and to embrace its cultural diversity there was a need for differentiating design, lightning, paving materials and street furnishings in the zone as it runs along the street.
The intensity of the zone was increased at carefully selected points which were activated by hubs promoting new forms of urban life along the street. The first of these for example created outdoor interactive science exhibits.

In 2014 three different design options were evaluated in an Environment Impact Review. The three options distributed space along the street differently between pedestrians, cyclists, private cars and public transport access. The concrete street designs made the potential of different priorities in planning the street very visible and gave the people the opportunity to make an informed choice. The three designs were a part of the vision of a new Market Street with lively public squares, sidewalks full of cafés, good manoeuvrability for pedestrians and cyclists, and more efficient and reliable public transport.
With a robust framework in place, the street can adapt to changing social, cultural, environmental and economic factors.

In Depth