43 years ago this month

On July 10, 1968, ground was broken on the first building of Embarcadero Center in San Francisco. John Portman was joined by Mayor Joseph L. Alioto, Trammell Crow, David Rockefeller and Justin Herman in the ceremonial groundbreaking shown in the center photo on the right. In the 43 years since that sunny day in July, Embarcadero Center successfully transformed a broken down warehouse district into one of California’s prime commercial districts. Real Estate Investment Quarterly wrote, “Embarcadero Center proves Portman’s premise that an attractive and decidedly human environment can also be practical and profitable.”

Built in phases, the eight-block, 4.3 million sf (399,483 sm) development is comprised of five office towers, two hotels with 800 and 360 rooms respectively, and a multi-level pedestrian retail spine that spans the center of the site. Landscaped plazas and bridges link the retail space to the office towers, hotels, and the magnificent Justin Herman Plaza. Embarcadero Center was designed to support pedestrian activity and promote community gatherings, while maintaining private facilities for the needs of the business community and hotel guests.

In 1984, Embarcadero Center was presented the Urban Land Institute’s Award of Excellence for Excellence for Large-Scale Development. The Award for Excellence, given annually by the Urban Land Institute, recognizes development projects in the United States or Canada that exemplify superior design, relevance to contemporary issues and needs, and resourceful utilization of land while improving the quality of the living environment. In citing the project, the awards committee noted, “Embarcadero Center is an outstanding example of a planned development built with the special controls of redevelopment, resulting in an exceptional private product. It has contributed to the revitalization of the downtown area by creating gracious public spaces, extensive works of art and a vital environment for people and civic activities.“

Today, Embarcadero Center continues to be a hive of activity, attracting tourists, serving the business community and delighting local residents.