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Inside the Future of Mission Bay

Mission Bay is booming, with everything from major sports projects to residential towers all in the pipeline. So what will the area look like in the future? We gathered some of the top developers at Bisnow's first-ever Mixed-Use Summit at Hotel Nikko to find out.

Environmental Building Strategies principal Matt Macko, who moderated, asked panelists to look into a crystal ball 10 years from now and describe Mission Bay. 
Thompson Dorfman principal Bruce Dorfman says it'll be hugely successful due to the lack of development we have in S.F. It may not seem like it, but if you look at the Bay Area—where in the past few years 370,000 jobs have been created and 60,000 permits have been pulled—anywhere you build housing is going to be a hit.

Universal Paragon senior director Jonathan Scharfman (left) thinks we will be looking back at Mission Bay as something that has matured, with revitalization as the result of development of blocks further south. He's focused on the Southern entrance to the city in North San Mateo County on the Brisbane side. The city has made a good adjustment in calling for a retail corridor along 4th Street. That will have some good results; creating a nightlife south of King Street will be the No. 1 factor that contributes to the next 10 years, he says.

Signature Development EVP Paul Nieto says his firm was the first private builder in Mission Bay, and he recalls the pioneering days when there was a 150-person homeless camp next door and a dead body popped up. The large blocks of Mission Bay can be challenging; initially the architecture was prescriptive and boxy—almost a "Soviet-style regimentation" that doesn't fit S.F. He thinks the eclectic mix of uses make sites more authentic, and he thinks the style has progressed for the better over the years. Lessons learned are being applied to his $1.5B Brooklyn Basin project in Oakland, he says.

As time goes on it's going to wear in very nicely, says MBH Architects founding principal John McNulty. He thinks the introduction of the Warriors arena (rendered below) will be a catalyst for a whole other transformation, as well as the Giants development at Mission Rock and the south entry to Mission Bay. Blocks have been characterized as too big, or "super blocks" with not enough visual breakup. He thinks the architecture, as it's developing, is taking care of that. There's a lot of interest in diffusing the mass.

There's something about the messiness of urban life that needs to be introduced and will be part of the maturity of Mission Bay over the years, says Jonathan. The policy, development and investment sides are important to consider—especially in urban settings. Jonathan is charged with redeveloping the former Schlage Lock sites next to the Bayshore Caltrain station in S.F.

Bruce says from an urban and planning standpoint, he's always drawn to North of Market (NoMa) where it's a smaller box of communities and neighborhoods. In SoMa it seems mixed-use is hard, and it's difficult to create a lot of vitality with large block developments.