IKEA is coming to downtown to SF next fall, to the long-empty 6x6 mall on Market Street between Fifth and Sixth streets, and the plan is for an urban version of an IKEA store that's about 20-percent of the size of their regular, sprawling suburban complexes.
The initial word about IKEA's arrival came just before the holiday weekend, but the company confirmed the details on Tuesday. And Mayor London Breed tells Twitter and the Chronicle today that she and her team originally pitched IKEA executives on bringing their first U.S. urban mall to downtown San Francisco in 2018. The company's mall division, called Ingka Centres, already has 45 of these urban mall projects in Europe, and this will be the first to arrive stateside, complete with a pared-down furniture store that offers delivery.
"It's been a long road, but it's exciting that this long vacant location in Mid-Market will be coming to life," Breed says, adding that IKEA will "make a huge difference" for the area.
Gerard Groener, managing director of Ingka Centres, tells the Chronicle in a statement that the company understands the shift toward urbanization across the globe, particularly among younger people, many of whom won't have cars in the future. "To reach this audience, we need to be closer than we were," he says. "We were not visible anymore to them... So that’s the drive into the city."
A real estate analyst explains to the Chronicle, and it should be already understood, that while retail as a sector may be suffering all over the place, IKEA holds a special place as a brand — and everyone needs cheap and attractive furniture at some point, even in a pandemic.
Bringing IKEA to the beleaguered 6x6 development is indeed a coup, after this place has sat vacant since its completion four years ago and the subsequent downturn in retail and malls in general, combined with the never-ending woes of this part of the city at street level. The original concept was to have a JC Penney or Target-anchored "discount" mall to complement the more upscale offerings at the nearby Westfield. Then there was talk of a "fashion-forward" anchor tenant like Top Shop or Primark. But the deals never materialized, and the developer tried to pivot this clearly escalator-filled retail space as office instead.
The generally dismal fate of many mid-Market businesses led to a deep dive by the Chronicle last year about the failure to launch that followed the infamous "Twitter tax break" of a decade ago.
Groener tells the paper today that IKEA is unconcerned with the persistent issues of homelessness, etc. on Market Street, and says, "We have no fear for any of those issues, otherwise we wouldn’t have landed there. We believe in this location."
There is a 167-car garage, which has been open for customers for several years despite there being no mall. And Groener says that they're still working out the details of what will go in the six-story complex besides IKEA. He mentions "hybrid functions" like community spaces and "services," as well as the possibility of "hardcore retail" with added food and beverage. And there will apparently be some office space tucked in there as well.
The IKEA store itself will occupy 70,000 out of the total 250,000 square feet.
What's for sure is that you no longer will have to borrow/rent a car or van to go to Emeryville to buy a bookshelf or TV stand and eat some Swedish meatballs.
Fall of 2021 is the opening timeframe, with interior construction set to begin later this year.
Rendering via IKEA