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City Eyes Corovan Site for Flower Mart

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For years Walden Development has worked to develop 901 16th Street and 1200 17th Street, known as the “Corovan” site. In 2013 the developer proposed to build housing and Kaiser Permanente medical offices at the site, an idea that was fiercely rejected by nearby residents.  A subsequent plan to construct roughly 400 housing units and 25,000 square feet of retail space, which was approved by the City three years ago, has been held up by legal challenges.  

Now, anxious to identify a place to relocate the Wholesale Flower Mart to make way for a massive development at Fifth and Brannon streets, Kilroy Reality, supported by the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) is eyeing the Corovan site as a node to sell florae.

The deal, if it goes through, could solve multiple problems, though create new ones for Potrero Hill. Construction costs have escalated over the past several years, significantly eroding the profitability of building even upper-income housing. Tens of millions of dollars of development impact fees would be generated by the South-of-Market project.  But OEWD has been unable to find an alternative site for the Flower Mart, failing to secure locations at the Wholesale Produce Mart and other Bayview properties.  As part of its development agreement Kilroy needs to relocate the blossom businesses; if an alternative isn’t found by the end of the year rents for existing vendor spaces could skyrocket.

However, over the past decade the area around Showplace Square has morphed from being predominately a design district to becoming increasingly dense with residential complexes.  As a result, the primary adjacent transportation corridor, along 16th Street, is being significantly modified to accommodate growing levels of commuter, transit, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic, including widening sidewalks at bus stops and installing boarding islands.  The infusion of semi-industrial activities – with heavy-duty delivery trucks, and early morning goings-on – may not match well with emerging land uses.

Walden Development’s approved plans for the Corovan site features 146 two-bedroom, two-bath units; 22 three-bedroom, two-bath homes; and six ground level flex spaces that could be used as live-work.  Forty-two of the units would be offered at below-market rents, 55 percent of average mean income.  There’d be roughly 10,000 square feet of family and children’s outdoor play area; a $9.7 million payment to the Mayor’s Office of Housing to fund additional BMR residential construction; and a $1.8 million donation to Friends of Jackson Park, a neighborhood group dedicated to improving Jackson Park and Playground.

More comprehensive coverage of the Flower Mart’s fate, and potential use of the Corovan site, will appear in the View’s January issue.

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