The elevated Embarcadero Freeway hindered business along the historic working waterfront in San Francisco until it collapsed during the October 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
Seeing an opportunity to rebuild the ground level Embarcadero roadway from Mission Bay to Fisherman's Wharf as a popular pedestrian boulevard with surface rail, the City and County of San Francisco combined resources into a single urban design study that integrated four separate roadway and transit initiatives for the waterfront.
With ZGF Architects as the lead designer, a team led by Bechtel considered the increasingly diverse uses of the Embarcadero and made recommendations in the form of urban design goals, guidelines, criteria, art proposals and general plans.
By extending the light rail and historic streetcar lines along the boulevard as an economic umbilical cord between Market Street and Fisherman's Wharf, an integrated boulevard responded to the special needs of port activities and assisted in the renaissance of existing and developing uses on the landward side of the street.
The design improved connections between the downtown and a working waterfront by promoting the street alignment and design elements that brought the best out of both environments.
After demolition of the ill-fated freeway, construction work began in July 1993 on the parkway and F-line rail extension. More than 100 acres of land along the waterfront and the adjacent financial district that had once been dominated by the elevated freeway gave way to a new public plaza, the waterfront promenade, the renovated Ferry Building, the historic streetcar line along the waterfront, and a new high-density residential neighborhood which added more than 5,000 units of housing.