The Ferry Building’s 125-year anniversary renovation has started, and while much of the clock tower is now concealed by scaffolding, a fresh coat of paint in the custom color “Ferry Building Gray” will bring the structure back to its original 1898 hue.

We learned last month that the Embarcadero’s Ferry Building was getting renovations, though these had actually started in 2019, and simply had not been that noticeable. But this renovation is a multi-phased project, and if you’ve been by the Ferry Building in the last week or two, you’ve definitely noticed that scaffolding is up over much of the clock tower. John King of the Chronicle checks in today with an update on the Ferry Building’s renovations now that scaffolding is up, with structural repairs and the repainting set to start next month.

Image: Joe Kukura, SFist

The clock tower is already obscured now, and will be even moreso over the course of the project. The Chronicle adds that “the scaffold itself will soon be draped in netting that could shroud the tower of the waterfront landmark until fall.”

But there’s something that sounds visually tantalizing on the other end of all this. As the Ferry Building informed us in January, they’re repainting the exterior in a new custom color they’ve dubbed “Ferry Building Gray.” In the words of Ferry Building management, this new custom  color “represents the varied warm gray tones of the building’s original Colusa sandstone. The final phase of that restoration project — painting the iconic clocktower — is underway now and will be completed in 2023.”

You would think the Ferry Building's management is the Port of San Francisco, but that’s not exactly the case. The port owns the building and the property itself, but it’s leased to Hudson Pacific Properties and Allianz Real Estate, who are footing most of the bill for these leasehold improvements. (Their lease runs through 2067.) And these renanovations quietly started in 2019, with much of the less-visible work being done during the pandemic, which coincidentally is when the building saw little use, so it was hardly noticed.


There will be more changes, many of which have not even been determined yet, so they are likely years off. But for you, the Embarcadero pedestrian, diner, or shopper, the meaningful stuff is expected to be completed by year’s end, or somewhat after. The paint job should be done by the end of 2023. And as seen above, so will an outdoor dining remodel where “Outside, along the Embarcadero, canopy structures employing new lighting and moveable overhead panels will provide shade, weather protection, heating and flexible seating for comfortable outdoor dining, year-round.”

Bigger, more structural, and less glamorous  issues loom, and those changes are all being determined. The threat of rising sea levels calls for major changes to the historic waterfront structure, and the Chronicle mentions “the possibility of raising the entire Ferry Building by several feet.” But again, that’s all still only in the assessment phase, and is years away.  

But likely for the rest of 2023, there will be scaffolding on the clock tower. This is not expected to impact and of the businesses inside the Ferry Building, and the Foodwise Ferry Plaza Farmers Market should continue every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday for its regular hours.

Related: Check Out the Upcoming Ferry Building Renovations, Including a New Coat of Paint [SFist]

Image: Joe Kukura, SFist