Downtown San Francisco to Receive Strengthening Proposal

San Francisco’s downtown district is facing a major overhaul amid the loss of both stores and shoppers. At least twelve businesses have announced their intent to close shop in the area popular with tourists since the start of the year. The CK Contemporary Art Gallery, which was affected by the pandemic, received more bad news this week when Nordstrom’s stores and Saks Off 5th announced their decision to close. “It’s never something you like to hear,” said Lauren Ellis, a representative from the gallery. “But I think it’s not unique to San Francisco, right? I think it’s a moment of transition.”

Marisa Rodriguez, the head of the Union Square Alliance, remarked the district’s challenges will be viewed as an opportunity to innovate in the future, adding that new initiatives such as Union Square in Bloom are already underway. “To reset and reimagine, using the word ‘reimagine,’ what our downtown is going to look like and of course our larger urban shopping district,” she added.

Crime, remote work, empty offices, and retail changes are reasons attributed to downtown’s troubles during the pandemic. Nevertheless, some are optimistic about a fresh direction. “What we want to do is make it easier for businesses in Union Square. Make it easier to open a new business, make it easy and flexible if you want a conversion, let’s say you own a building and want to make it residential or office,” Rodriguez elaborated.

On Thursday, the planning commission approved legislation aiming to eliminate vacant spaces in downtown and Union Square by modifying the planning and building codes and allowing a much wider variety of businesses. “The mayor and I put our heads together, surrounded ourselves with experts for a comprehensive planning code change for the downtown and midmarket to encourage more retail flexibility to allow for easier conversion from vacant office to residential,” affirmed San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin. The decision is considered a significant step towards the renewal of the district, which is hoped to usher in more business opportunities.

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