The three blocks of Powell Street between Union Square and Market Street are being made a priority in SF Mayor London Breed's proposed new budget, with money being aimed at beautifying sidewalks and finding tenants for some big, vacant stores.
The idea is to put $6 million in the next year toward sprucing up the heavily touristed area that includes the famous cable-car turnaround — and which lately includes depressing empty storefronts in the spaces formerly occupied by The Gap, H&M, and Uniqlo, among others.
Breed has Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, whose district includes the foot of Powell Street, on board with the proposed plan, as the Chronicle reports.
"We need to change how we do things in this City to support our Downtown and Union Square," Breed said in a statement ahead of a press conference Tuesday in Union Square. "This stretch of Powell Street should be a destination filled with activity, shopping, and dining. This proposal is about not only improving this area, but also continuing to send a message that we are going to do everything we can to make our Downtown a successful and thriving place for decades to come.”
With our cable cars, restaurants, and shops, Powell Street is a gateway to Union Square and visited by people from all over the world. The proposal with @AaronPeskin will help transform the streets and sidewalks and fill empty storefronts. https://t.co/AEsSkrWlkv pic.twitter.com/S62sw8BMT1— London Breed (@LondonBreed) May 16, 2023
Under Breed's proposal, $2 million would come from SFMTA funds, $2 million would be part of her new budget, and it's not clear where the other $2 million allocation is coming from, but the Chronicle says it also will require Board of Supervisors approval. That last $2 million block of funds would be aimed at providing incentives for prospective tenants and landlords in the form of tenant improvements or other startup funds to fill vacant spaces.
"Obviously there’s a lot of competing worthy needs in a shrinking moment of scarcity,” says Peskin, speaking to the Chronicle. “It’s not going to be easy. I think my colleagues understand the importance of Union Square.”
The latest proposal comes after Breed announced a sweeping plan in February for tax breaks and other incentives for businesses looking to relocate or open new offices in the downtown core. That followed the 2021 Downtown Recovery Plan, which was priced at $9.5 million, and it's not clear if that plan has been wholly supplanted by these others.
Last month, the city also announced a $710,000 program called Vacant to Vibrant that aims to put pop-up restaurants and bars, shops, and performances/events in parts of the very empty downtown starting in late summer/early fall.
The new funds will need to be approved as part of Breed's budget, by August 1.
Previously: Pop-Up Bars, Restaurants, and Market Street Dance Parties Envisioned In New Downtown Revival Program
Photo: Timo Strohman