Here’s an out-of-left-field solution to the highly uncertain future of Union Square’s Westfield San Francisco Centre shopping mall — Mayor Breed pitched the idea Thursday that it could become “a whole new soccer stadium.”
In the nearly two weeks since the Westfield Corporation and partner Brookfield Properties defaulted on their $558 million loan and surrendered the SF Westfield mall to their lender, the mall has lost yet more major retail tenants. When the Nordstrom there closes up shop, the entire mall will barely be half-full, with 45% of the shopping center completely vacant. Not much of a cheese shop, is it?
The pointed question was put to San Francisco Mayor London Breed Thursday at Bloomberg’s Technology Summit in San Francisco (You can watch it here). Bloomberg California bureau chief Karen Breslau specifically asked Breed about businesses closing in or leaving San Francisco. “Is this how you see a ‘doom loop’,” she asked, “and is San Francisco in one?”
Breed kicked around a few observations about the general decline of brick-and-mortar retail, before articulating a very unexpected goal.
“You can convert certain spaces,” Breed said, according to SFGate. “A Westfield mall could become, you know, something completely different than what it currently is. It could be a place where — we could even tear down the whole building and build a whole new soccer stadium.”
That seems like an off-the-cuff remark without much thought put in. The logistics would be staggering, and I do not see the demand for such a thing, unless the San Jose Earthquakes move to San Francisco and then sign Neymar.
But Breed did follow that up with a more plausible solution. “We can create lab space or look at it as a new company in some other capacity,” she said. She has a point there, as several biotech companies have converted office space, and lab work generally cannot be done remotely.
But whatever happens to the Westfield Centre property is not currently London Breed’s decision. The property will be surrendered to its various multiple lenders and commercial mortgage-backed securities, and an assigned receiver will decide what happens to the property. Commercial realtors are optimistic new tenants can be found, though perhaps at fire sale prices.
So the soccer stadium is an interesting idea, but it’s more likely to end up in the hands of bargain-hunting new tenants capitalizing on the free kicks.
Image: Kenny P. via Yelp