The 5M Project – the next generation of urban office campus that increases innovation

Forest City redevelops the former San Francisco Chronicle printing facility in partnership with the Hearst Corporation to lure tech giants back from suburbia.

Bucking suburbia
In 2006, the 150-year old San Francisco Chronicle closed its printing capacity at its headquarters at 5th & Mission, creating 4-acres of downtown development opportunity zoned for nearly 2MM square feet of office.  The paper’s owner, the Hearst Corporation, partnered with Forest City Realty Trust to redevelop the property located in the heart of the city, just two-minutes to major transit and the central business district.  This was at the same time when Silicon Valley’s tech giants were doubling down on suburban corporate campuses.  In 2006, Apple had acquired 176 acres to build its $5 billion dollar campus expansion, including the “Infinite Loop” building.  Google acquired an additional 26 acres to expand the Mountain View Googleplex to 3.5MM square feet of office, dotted with two dozen cafeterias and a surface parking lot solar array large enough to generate 1.6 megawatts of energy.  Suffice it to say, few if any major companies were locating in urban centers.  So Forest City understood that it needed to design a project that would buck the suburban office park trend and attract a major anchor tenant and employer.

While tech giants were doubling down on their sprawling corporate campuses, Forest City was exploring how the next generation of office design would leverage the natural vibrancy of urban centers to help companies be more innovative without having to sequester themselves in suburbia.

The result is The 5M Project, a phased development strategy for a thriving district of art, technology and entrepreneurship which aims to use real estate as a tool to help tenants accelerate innovation.  Recognizing the need that Silicon Valley companies have for constant innovation in order to stay competitive, Forest City is building the next generation urban campus that leverages economic and behavioral research on how place drives an organization’s ability to be creative.  The core value of the 5M Project is to increase serendipity through interdisciplinary interactions across organizations.  The campus uses design, program and even its phasing to provide tenants the excuses and opportunities to learn, share ideas and find inspiration from co-tenants in ways that could never happen when sequestered in a suburban campus.  The first phase of the 5M Project was completed in 2010 with the adaptive reuse of the existing historic Chronicle structures.  That phase included a collection of artist organizations, makers, entrepreneurs and start-ups including Twitter, TechShop and the Impact Hub.  The second phase, beginning in 2018, will expand the campus vertically with four new 250 to 400-foot buildings, an acre of new open space, renovation of two historic structures, and nearly 700 apartments, including over 250 affordable units (below 50% AMI).

FIX’s Role
Forest City hired FIX in 2008 to help design the development strategy behind the 5M Project.  FIX began with a year-long research project, studying with some of the most innovative organizations in the world to better understanding how real estate drives innovation.  FIX then worked with Forest City and its consultant team, including Gensler Architects, to guide design over the phased development plan.  FIX provided project management and design services for Forest City on the 5M Project and a range of other projects throughout the West Coast over a four year period.   See our post on our work on Pier 70.

ClientForest City Realty Trust
Size1.8MM square feet of
development on 4-acres of land
Location5th & Mission, San Francisco
ProgramOffice, affordable housing, market-rate housing retail, cultural, institutional, and event space
RoleVisioning & development strategy
Market research & community engagement
Feasibility analysis
Project management
ImpactHousing: 250 affordable housing units below 50% AMI
Capacity: Supporting the productivity and innovation of dozens of local artists, makers and entrepreneurs