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Follow This: Twitter Brings Investors & Developers t...

Follow This: Twitter Brings Investors & Developers to Mid-Market San Francisco

After decades of disinvestment and decline, Mid-Market Street in downtown San Francisco seems to be finally headed toward revitalization. Plywood has come off vacant storefronts, sidewalks are filled with pedestrians headed to work, and loud sounds of construction serve as an unfamiliar soundtrack for the historically troubled neighborhood. How did this happen? It’s fairly clear

After decades of disinvestment and decline, Mid-Market Street in downtown San Francisco seems to be finally headed toward revitalization. Plywood has come off vacant storefronts, sidewalks are filled with pedestrians headed to work, and loud sounds of construction serve as an unfamiliar soundtrack for the historically troubled neighborhood.

How did this happen?

It’s fairly clear to most that social media giant Twitter and real estate firm Shorenstein Company, LLC have a lot to do with it:

  • In March 2011, Shorenstein purchased two historic buildings that span an entire block of Mid-Market Street between 9th and 10th Street;
  • In April 2011, San Francisco created a six-year payroll tax exemption zone on Mid-Market Street for hires businesses make after moving there;
  • In the same month, Twitter finalized a deal with Shorenstein to lease space in their newly renovated “Market Square”;
  • Since then, notable companies such as One King’s Lane, ZenDesk, Zoosk, Benchmark Capital, Yammer, and Dolby Laboratories have moved to Mid-Market, and 1,500 housing units are either in the planning phase or already being built.

The Market Square Building, San Francisco

10th and Market, Crescent Heights residential rental complex

Even with controversy brewing over the tax exemption (i.e., “Twitter taxbreak”), there’s no doubt that Market Square has begun to change Mid-Market Street. But complete revitalization is still far off, and economic upturn has raised more questions:

  • Will the upswing sparked by Twitter and Shorenstein bring sustainable economic development to the entire Mid-Market neighborhood?
  • Will advocacy, rent control, and new housing developments be enough to ensure that current residents can remain?
  • What will happen to the cluster of services in Mid-Market that exist to serve the poor and homeless population there?
  • And finally, what will Mid-Market Street look and feel like after these changes? Will it be the change San Franciscans want?

Are there any revitalization projects going on in your neighborhood?  What do you think about them?

Credits: Images by Steven Chang. Data linked to sources.

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Steven Chang was a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area and held a B.A. in Urban Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. His interest in urban planning began in his hometown of Rowland Heights, California (near Los Angeles), when he...

  • http://www.theglobalgrid.org Robert Poole

    Great post Steven!

    I am always interested in how these upscale developments will affect the residing lower-income populations. You clearly present this question at the end of your piece. I imagine this will attract a young, wealthier population, as this seems to be the demographic that participates in new, techy businesses such as Twitter. It seems economic development and gentrification always collide.

  • http://www.theglobalgrid.org/ Steven Chang

    @Robert,

    Thank you! Yes, an argument can be made that gentrification is a market-driven phenomenon, but I think it’s much harder to make that case about displacement. In Mid-Market San Francisco, I think everyone is very excited about the new development and investment in a way that outshines the looming shadow of rising housing costs. I know that Twitter is in a sort of agreement with the city to invest back into the community, but I don’t think anything is in writing yet. I don’t think anyone is seriously thinking about “protecting” existing residents yet. It’ll be interesting to see when and if that shift happens, which I imagine will be a little longer than expected because Mid-Market has been in decline for so long.

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