San Francisco Store Moving to Dramatic New Location

May 16, 2013


Faced with an additional four years of underground transit tunnel construction in front of the San Francisco (N. Calif.) Apple store, and feeling the general crush of increased store visitors, the company will move retail operations two blocks away, into a stunning two-level, glass storefront location facing the city’s main square. It will be the first relocation of a high-profile store in the chain’s 12-year history. Significantly, the plans were announced by SF mayor Ed Lee, who said he hopes the new store would help reverse waning retail activity in the area. Lee did not say if the city had offered Apple any incentives or permit accommodations to make the move. At a stand-up event inside the current nearby Apple store on Thursday, Lee told reporters the relocated store would have 45 percent more space and 50 more employees than the existing store that opened in February 2004. That store occupies about 10,800 square-feet within a building faced with stainless steel. The store has no interior or exterior visibility, since there are no windows and only one narrow skylight. A single-run glass staircase connects the ground-floor and second level. The relocated store will feature a towering glass storefront, allowing total visibility for both passersby and visitors. The glass consists of 11 panels that are about 40-feet tall. A wide glass staircase on both sides of the store provides access to the upper level. The rear wall of the store appears to be semi-transparent, allowing a view of the adjacent hotel plaza. A relatively small white Apple logo is suspended at the top-center of the storefront. The existing flagship Levi’s store occupies only a partial, triangular portion of the parcel, and the remaining space is a public, red-brick plaza. According to Apple’s rendering, the store will occupy the southern portion of the parcel, and there is open space visible to the north. Although mayor Lee confirmed the project to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, he did not provide a timeline for the move. Update: Within a week, mayor Lee acknowledged Apple’s plan would include removing a long-time and allegedly popular fountain on the rear hotel plaza. Newspaper urban design critic John King also revealed that the architects for the project are Foster + Partners.

The existing Levi’s building at 300 Post Street has been the clothing retailer’s flagship location since August 1999. The company was founded in San Francisco in 1853. The store is soon moving to a temporary location during construction of a new flagship in the same neighborhood. The 300 Post Street property has been on the market since October 2012.

The corner parcel is 132 feet wide and 140 feet deep and overlooks Union Square, the historic center of the city. The Levi’s store occupies about one-half of the space, or about 9,240 square-feet. The remaining 9,240 square-feet is an red-brick plaza associated with the Grand Hyatt Hotel on the north side of the block.

Based on the rendering supplied by Apple, the store will occupy up to almost 25,000 square-feet, although about one-third of that space would be back-of-house space. A rendering of the rear of the store shows a public entrance, a plaza with trees, flowers and other greenery, and a wall-type waterfall.

Apple’s existing store on Stockton Street at Market Street was created when the company bought out the remaining lease of cosmetics retailer Sephora in 2003. Apple then demolished the building and constructed a new three-level structure. That same scenario is expected to occur for the relocated store.

The store’s grand opening was attended by the current and former mayors of the city, and hailed as helping to bring an increased retail presence to the area. Since then store traffic has increased, and several renovations have occurred, including the removal of the original second-level presentation theater last year. Most recently, the city began construction on an underground transmit tunnel, requiring barricades, no parking zones and other pedestrian obstructions in front of the store. The construction is scheduled to continue through 2017.

Watch a short video promotion for the 300 Post Street property.

The announcement was formally made by mayor Lee and Apple’s’ Bob Bridger, VP of retail real estate and development. Here is mayor Lee’s prepared statement about the future store:

Today Mayor Edwin M. Lee and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu announced plans for a new Apple Retail store on Union Square, to be located at 300 Post Street. The new store will employ nearly 400 employees, about 50 more than today, and will offer Apple’s same popular services such as the Genius Bar, Personal Training and free workshops. This store joins two other stores in the City—Chestnut and Stonestown—and will be 45 percent larger than the existing Apple Store at 1 Stockton Street.

“Apple’s new store is quite simply incredible,” said Mayor Lee. “San Francisco is the Innovation Capital of the World, and I can think of no better location for the world’s most stunning Apple Store than right here in Union Square. I want to thank Apple for their investment in this City and continued commitment to growing jobs in San Francisco.”

Significantly, the current Apple store grand opening was attended by two mayors and Steve Jobs, all celebrating the store’s location along the border of an area the city was attempting to revitalize at the time. The new proposed store is similarly being promoted as a way to bring new life to the Union Square retail scene.

“I’m excited that the company that revolutionized consumer technologies is moving to the heart of Union Square,” said supervisor Chiu. “The new Apple store will highlight technology and design innovation as well as build community at the center of our City’s retail district.”

The application and materials for the proposed new store were formally filed at the San Francisco Planning Department. The site is currently occupied by a Levi’s store, which is anticipated to relocate later this year.

This city assessor’s map of the block shows the current Levi’s retail store building in red on parcel #16. The blue lines outline the anticipated location of the Apple retail store, with the rear wall (dotted line) at 60 feet, although the wall could be located further north. The remainder of the parcel to the north is the Grand Hyatt Hotel building and the its triangular entrance plaza. Click on the graphic for a larger view.

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