When the George R. Moscone Convention Center first opened its doors in 1981, most of the building was below ground level. The intention at the time was to minimize the building’s visual impact on San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood.
“It was originally an underground structure with only modest above-ground features,” said Michael Shewchuk, WSP project manager. “It was functional, but its ‘bunker’ design didn’t really fit into the current neighborhood.”
Since the Moscone Convention Center first opened, three major projects expanded the capabilities and improved the overall appeal of the buildings and its surroundings: Moscone North in 1991; Yerba Buena Gardens, a two-block public park, in 1993; and Moscone West in 2003.
“Each time there was a modification, it was designed to make the facility more integrated into the urban fabric of the neighborhood,” Shewchuk said. “Despite those improvements, the main building still couldn’t shake that bunker feel, and the expanded buildings were largely disconnected from the main building.”
Correcting those concerns resulted in the most ambitious renovation and expansion project since the facility first opened. It was an expansion that added 317,000 square feet of space to the existing building, providing a total of 520,000-square-feet of contiguous exhibit space by connecting the below-grade portions of the existing north and south buildings.
The $385 million expansion includes a new ballroom, meeting rooms, kitchen and support spaces. A four-story structure glass façade has been added to the “bunker”, providing expanded exhibit and convention center space and fantastic views of downtown San Francisco and the nearby harbor.
Two new pedestrian bridges provide key connections between the buildings – one enclosed, and one open green walkway.
“Prior to renovation, people who attended events couldn’t see much of the city they were visiting,” Shewchuk said. “Now the above-grade sections of the building feature spectacular views of the neighborhood. It’s a much more enjoyable experience.”