Pier 70 - redeveloping 28 acres of SF waterfront

Forest City redevelops Pier 70 San Francisco into an urban utopia of artists, makers and innovation.

Phase 1 redefined the community engagement process and created a national model of how to inclusively revitalize a derelict former industrial district.

In 2011, Forest City won the development rights to 28-acres of waterfront at Pier 70 through a public RFP process led by the San Francisco Port.  Pier 70 is a 69-acre historic shipbuilding district just south of the city.  It was the site of the first West Coast steel hull ship manufacturer and where much of the US World War II fleet was built.   The surrounding quiet neighborhoods are full of artists and inherently affordable housing, filling-in former warehouses and industrial buildings.  While the property is an extraordinary opportunity for redevelopment, it has several challenges.  It is outside of the core, far from transit, and the artists and lower-income residents have galvanized against development, fearing displacement.  Beyond that the site is enormous and has eight large historically significant buildings with extensive deferred maintenance, including 250′ wide Building 12.

The most fundamental question for any redevelopment strategy is how to create active and alluring place with such a large property to attract the number of employers and residents necessary to support new construction.  Build too little or slowly to mitigate risk and there wouldn’t be enough critical mass.  Build too much too quickly and it likely feels inauthentic and further amplifies the risk.  Forest City had just completed the first phase of a small but comparable development, the 5M Project, a 4-acre project in a then undesirable part of downtown.  The project overcame the challenge of its location by organically growing, beginning with small adaptive reuses for artists, makers and entrepreneurs along with a robust event program to stimulate broader interest and support the new tenants.  The prototype provided the dual benefit of testing-out ideas about how place can increase the creativity of its tenants, something Forest City ultimately used to attract larger tech tenants into the project.  And this would be the basis for its development strategy at Pier 70.

Forest City is creating a new model of community engagement through prototyping on site with small adaptive reuse and event programming, resulting in a more inclusive and organic process of redevelopment.

The first phase of Pier 70 began in 2015 with a series of open houses, concerts, TED-like workshops, art fairs, and other cultural events.  Each event builds a connection to the place and supports the local community of artists, increasing the districts sense of value to a broader and more diverse network of people.  They are also informing the urban and building design, demonstrating what works in the spaces, what program is successful, and where there are natural centers of gravity.  In short, Forest City has created a new, more earnest and productive mode of community engagement, where the use of a place informs design rather than over-simplified conversations over renderings on poster boards.  Earlier this year (2017), Forest City submitted its full development proposal which was approved unanimously by the city Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission.  The project will have 500,000 square feet of space for artists, light industrial, and retail; over 1,000,000 square feet of office; and more than 2,100 units of residential.  Construction is expected to begin in 2019.

FIX’s Role
FIX project managed the winning RFP submittal for Forest City, including helping to generate the Pier 70 development strategy. FIX continued to advise Forest City, assisting in developing the project’s subsequent first phase.

ClientForest City
LocationPier 70, San Francisco, CA
ProgramOffice, Arts, Cultural, Residential
RoleVisioning, strategic planning, feasibility, and project management through the RFP process
ImpactHousing: approx 645 units of affordable housing (30% of estimated 2,150 units).
Opportunity: affordable commercial space for small-medium businesses.

Forest City evolves into new development models

Forest City West Coast explores new development models to drive innovation.

Following the 2008 financial crisis, the national developer takes on exciting new innovations in real estate to evolve into the next generation of placemakers.

A $12B publicly-traded national developer transforms
Real estate is not known for being innovative but a number of growing forces are pressuring the industry to evolve.  The pressures are diverse and broad across the development process.  Supply chain and manufacturing technologies are creating new materials and new methods for erecting buildings, while labor laws and environmental regulations are beginning to impede traditional methods and materials.  A growing awareness of community-led development has created a sea-change in how cities are permitting projects, demanding more involved processes of community engagement.  Leasing, trading and financing are each also evolving as the internet economy begins to migrate control  away from traditional models, mirroring much of the share economy and community-sourced strategies we see in other sectors like ride-sharing and crowd-funding.  These are all opportunities for innovation that development companies will need to tackle if they are to remain relevant and sustain their businesses.

Real estate is slow to evolve but the mounting pressures on development are bringing new opportunities for innovation across the industry.

Forest City is a 12-billion dollar privately owned and publicly traded national developer.  Following the 2008 financial crisis, Forest City’s West Coast operations, directed by Kevin Ratner, was striving to capitalize on these opportunities through a series of innovative new developments, new business models, and R&D projects.  The effort included a year-long research project on the future of office and subsequent 4-acre development showcasing how real estate can increase innovation; a side-by-side construction and market absorption test of identical buildings, one fabricated off-site through modular construction and one built traditionally on-site; a new community engagement process using a phased development strategy and programming to enable the social networks of early small-scale tenants to help define future phases; and a new research and consulting division to mitigate the risks of expanding into new markets.

FIX’s Role
Forest City retained FIX for four years beginning 2009 to help the company research, define and operationalize each of these initiatives.  FIX worked in tandem with Forest City leadership and development teams, embedding within the company for periods to project manage and ensure viability and adoption within the organization.  Our work spanned across the entire West Coast, including Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

A replicable affordable housing development

An affordable and
replicable mixed-use housing prototype

Designed for Seattle’s most common NC-zoned lot size to replicate easily and affordably.

Keeping it simple
This is a prototypical design for a 10,000 square-foot mixed-use infill project in Seattle’s Neighborhood Commercial zoning.  It is designed specifically for the 40 foot-wide lots that are ubiquitous throughout the city.  It is a replicable prototype with a base development program and façade design that can be adapted specific to each location.  The building has six to ten residential units (depending on site zoning) over 3,000 square feet of commercial space that can flexibly be divided into smaller suites as desired.  Through the design of a single open-air stairway servicing the entire building, the project provides cross-ventilation, natural light, and egress to all units in the center of the building without diminishing net rentable efficiency.  Combined with a grade level foundation and limited parking, the design reduces overall construction costs by approximately 30% relative to comparable mixed-use projects.  The result is an efficient design with flexibility in unit layout not typically found in buildings with long or deep proportions and a pro forma that affords significant reduction in rental levels, targeting workforce affordability.  Shared access to the open-air stair core integrates the ground-level commercial space with the residential community, creating a small-scale vertical neighborhood.

FIX’s Role
FIX developed this design in 2012 as a means of proving development viability for the smallest of mixed-use infill sites with the belief that there is economic and social value in providing small-scale projects.  The designs were reviewed by SDCI through their pre-submittal permitting process.

Size10,000 SF, 8-12 units
LocationSeattle, WA
ProgramA prototype design for mixed-use
residential, to be replicated
throughout Seattle on NC-zoned
RoleMarket analysis
Project management
ImpactHousing: A replicable and sustainable housing prototype that increases density through urban infill.

San Francisco's Sustainable Resource District Re:vision

San Francisco’s Sustainable Resource District creates the future of green infrastructure

Guiding 80 public-private stakeholders to define Mayor Newsom’s district-wide sustainability plan.

District-wide green infrastructure
In 2008, in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom launched an effort to transform the Civic Center neighborhood into the City’s first Sustainable Resource District.  This would be the first time that the city addressed sustainability on the district scale across public and private sectors, including resource management and related socio-economic issues such as access to transportation, food security, affordable housing and historic preservation.  The Mayor’s specific goals for the District were:

  1. 80% potable water use reduction
  2. 45% wastewater discharge reduction
  3. 35% peak power demand met by renewables
  4. 33% annual energy reduction
  5. Reduction of the community carbon footprint by 2,225 tons annually; the equivalent of the annual greenhouse gas emissions of 1,286 San Francisco households

FIX’s Role
FIX was brought on by Urban Re:Vision to design and facilitate the initiative’s two-day kick-off workshop, guiding more than 80 city stakeholders, public utilities, engineers, social service advocates and designers through a transformative process to develop a collective vision.  The purpose was to design the systems that would accomplish the Mayor’s specific goals for the District while building consensus among the disparate public and private entities that would be responsible for implementing the initiative.  The outcome was a collective definition of a sustainable resource district and a road-map outlining agency responsibility and metrics.


ClientUrban Re:vision
Size62 acres
LocationSan Francisco, CA
ProgramSustainable infrastructure
Public parks and open space
Project visioning
ImpactCapacity: Enabling the San Francisco Department of Greening in pursuing the city’s first Sustainable Resource District

500 net-zero affordable housing units in Dallas

Downtown Dallas creates a net-zero city block of affordable housing

Central Dallas Community Development Corporation, in collaboration with the Rocky Mountain Institute, to create 500 units of affordable housing.

An underutilized surface parking lot
In 2009, the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation announced a $60M plan to redevelop a 2.5 acres downtown parcel into a leading-edge sustainable, mixed-use affordable housing project.  The program was for 500 units, 40% of which were to be at 60% AMI or lower.  The project was to be carbon neutral, produce zero waste, including storm water, and divert 75% of waste during construction. The site was a high-profile city block located between City Hall and the convention center, underutilized as a surface parking lot.  With the endorsement of Mayor Tom Leppert and working in collaboration with the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Development Corporation intended this to be a national model of affordability and sustainability for urban revitalization.

FIX’s Role
FIX was brought on to help the Development Corporation define a roadmap for accomplishing the project, including specific design criteria and metrics, formalize the development strategy, and create initial design feasibility studies.  Working in collaboration with facilitation team, Urban Re:Vision, FIX guided Dallas city planners, consultants and the development team through a series of charette-style workshops to complete the initial vision for the project.  Construction is targeted to begin in 2011.

Seeding authentic community in new places

Growing community in new large-scale master-planned developments.

The country’s largest master-planned community developer, Newland Communities, creates a new sales strategy that flips the industry norm on its head.

Before the 2008 financial crisis, Newland Communities was the country’s largest master planned community developer with 150 properties and over a billion dollars in annual revenue.  The developer had sold more than 200,000 residential units in its 50 year history.  But in the years prior to the financial crisis, leadership at Newland recognized that the market was evolving and that despite the fast pace of homesales, homeowners were aspiring for a stronger, more authentic community experience, particularly within Newland’s new development projects.  Previously, Newland had structured their sales model on pre-sales, often proceeding with the majority of development activity only once a critical mass of buyers had moved in.  This hedged the company’s financial risk but often meant they were not providing significant infrastructure or community amenities, straining relationships with the communities’ founding homebuyers and diminishing future sales as a result.

Despite booming sales, Newland understood in 2006 that it needed to create stronger community for homebuyers or it would risk commoditizing its developments.

In 2007,  Newland began an initiative to redesign its entire community development and sales strategies, beginning with a year-long user-based research project on the home buying experience.  Their goal was to design a new process that would foster the organic growth of community at pace with the growth of new homeowners to ensure that they were providing the amenities and infrastructure to do so while not overextending investment in advance of sufficient sales.  The result of their initiative was an entirely new sales process that shifted how and where Newland first invests in their communities.  Their new strategy centered on leading with the construction of a 10,000 square foot community center that would connect potential homebuyers with each other and with the existing natural and cultural amenities in the surrounding context.  New organizational structures and staffing supported the design, flipping the prior model on its head where 90% of Newland’s initial resources which had been focused on sales were now focused on providing buyers with excuses to participate in and help create new community experiences, trusting that these new experiences would convert to sales if it felt meaningful to the homebuyer.  The new community center was designed as a replicable prototype to be rolled-out nationally in all of Newland’s communities, modified at each location to fit its context.  The first was built as part of Newland’s Tehaleh Community, near Tacoma

Shannon Loew led the research and design for Newland Communities first while at IDEO in 2007 and then as the founder of FIX from 2008-2010.

ClientNewland Communities
Size10,000 SF community center
LocationMultiple locations nationally
ProgramCommercial, retail, event space
RoleVisioning & strategic planning
Market analysis & feasibility
Project management

Development impacts of a new mining town in Guinea

Development impacts of a new mining town in Guinea.

Rio Tinto was to spend $12B opening a new mine and needed to address the impacts socio-economic impacts they would have with doing so in one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world.

The world digs-up and transports over 3.5 billion metric tons of iron ore each year to produce steel.  That’s equivalent to nearly 700 of the great pyramid in weight annually.  The world’s single largest reserve of iron ore was found in the Simandou mountains of eastern Guinea in the mid 1990’s.  Simandou is an impassably thick jungle region approximately 700 kilometers inland from the coast in a country with no major rail, roadway or port infrastructure.  Optimistic estimates to set-up a mine in Simandou is approximately $12 billion (USD) and would include the construction of a new heavy-gauge cross-country railway, and a deep-water port, including 15 kilometers of trenching through the continental shelf that precludes the large shipping vessels from reaching its coast.  At that cost, any mining company would need to know that it would have stable and consistent mine operations for approximately 75 years to amortize its costs.  However, since its independence from French rule in 1958, Guinea has been unstable complete with multiple coups, presidential assassination attempts and massive government fraud.  The US publication, Foreign Policy, has called Guinea a failed state and generally, Guinea is considered one of the most corrupt and poorest countries in the world.  Despite these risks, mining company giant, Rio Tinto, pursued and won the exclusive concession to extract the Simandou iron ore by the Guinean government in the early 2000’s and began setting-out to design the massive country-wide infrastructure required to mine and transport the ore.

“Our long-term perspective?  Behind every person with a job, there are 20 dependents.  Perspective is a luxury.” — Conakry official

In 2006, Rio hired design consultancy IDEO to help it tackle several key infrastructure challenges, the most complex of which was the formation of the new mining town at the base of operations in Simandou.  New mines generate new jobs but there are surprisingly few people needed to operate a mine of this scale.   And given the level of poverty in Guinea, word of a massive new mine would inevitably attract thousands of people from all over West Africa.  Contemporary examples of new mining towns are grim: poor who have migrated with the hope of fair wages find unemployment and lack of services able to provide and care for them.  Shanty towns quickly spring-up with health risks and violence. Mining companies fence themselves off to secure their employees and operations which increases tensions and furthers instability as the impoverished blame both their own government and the foreign organizations for not creating more equitable support and access to opportunity.

FIX Founder, Shannon Loew, led the development portion of the project while employed at IDEO.  He and team traveled to Guinea with the goal of designing a more sustainable and equitable strategy for opening-up mining operations.  The intent was to help Rio Tinto adopt inclusive urban development processes that would support a greater number Guineans and ultimately garner greater stability over the long-term.  While in country, the team met with officials and elected leaders of the country, local municipalities and communities.  They assessed local capacity, cross-referencing that with the needs of both mining operations and general urban development to identify synergies and opportunities for using local labor and materials in establishing the mine and its supporting town.

Sadly, just following this initiative, Guinea fell into political turmoil and violence.  In parallel, the mining concession has been contested and been at the center of a massive international case of fraud, embezzlement and bribery, with involvement from the US Justice Dept and multiple countries.

ClientRio Tinto
LocationSimandou, Guinea
ProgramFormation of a new mining town
including operations, worker housing
medical and support services.
RoleEthnographic research
Urban design and planning
Strategic visioning
ImpactOpportunity: Supplanting tradition and creating hundreds of jobs and job training opportunities for local population (versus imported labor) in the opening and operation of mining activity.