San Francisco, California is a city that fosters new ideas while maintaining its unique neighborhood culture. While this mentality may seem odd, especially to those who have never been to the City by the Bay, it has also brought beautiful ideas to life. One such example is Proxy, a temporary two-block project that was intended as a space-filler until a more permanent development could occupy the site.
Located in the Hayes Valley neighborhood, Proxy hosts numerous vendors, ranging from cafes to retail to a fitness group. Envelope A+D, a creative design firm that looks at new ways of using space and living, designed the site. Most of the businesses at Proxy run their shops out of shipping containers. The idea is to allow start-ups to rotate in and out of the space while looking at the potential for impermanence.
Proxy became possible upon the collapse of the Central Freeway, as a result of the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. After the portion of the elevated Freeway than ran over Hayes Valley was demolished in 1996, the City had to think of a new and sustainable way to use the land. Plans for development of multi-family housing were halted when the recession hit in 2008. The Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development (MOEWD) then looked for entrepreneurs that could activate the site and rejuvenate the neighborhood, which led to the current use.
Proxy opened in 2011 with the intention of only being there for two to three years. But due to its popularity, the lease was extended to 2015 and then this past June, it was pushed further to 2021. The monthly rent is currently $5,000, but that will go up to $7,200 in 2015, with a 2% increase every year after. Since the site does not receive any money from the City or sponsorships, it relies on the success of its businesses to stay alive.
Much of Proxy’s success can also be attributed to Envelope A+D and its Founder, Douglas Burnham, who realizes the potential for this model's application in other spaces. "On another site, in a different neighborhood or in a different city, the project would be quite different. Though Proxy started as a project with a specific site, we quickly began to see it as a strategy that has implications far beyond that of a one-off project," he says.
How is your city bringing life to under utilized space?
Credits: Images by Robert Poole. Data linked to sources.