How Can We Reclaim Market Street?
Gretchen Hilyard
September 1, 2011
Parade of striking telephone workers marching down Market Street, 1947. Image courtesy of San Francisco History Room, San Francisco Public Library.

San Francisco’s Market Street has a long and fascinating history: from its ambitious beginnings as an over-scaled boulevard, laid out by Jasper O’Farrell in 1847, to its heyday as the city’s vibrant theater district in the early twentieth century. Market Street rose to prominence after the 1906 Earthquake, survived a series of urban planning experiments in the mid-twentieth century, and absorbed the important yet disruptive insertion of BART beneath its surface in 1972. Today, Market Street displays the varied, accumulated layers of intervention. How can we remedy the vacant storefronts, improve pedestrain and traffic circulation, and reduce crime and other issues that prevent Market Street from being a true civic spine?

Several city agencies, including the Mayor’s Office, the Department of Public Works, the Planning Department, the Transportation Authority and the SFMTA, along with residents, merchants and community groups, are trying to answer these questions with the Better Market Street project. The project seeks to revitalize Market Street from Octavia Boulevard to the Embarcadero by reestablishing the street as a premier cultural, civic and economic center of San Francisco and the Bay Area. As the city undertakes this important project, we must ask: What imprint will we make on Market Street’s future?

Reclaim Market Street!
– SPUR’s newest exhibition— seeks to inspire a new vision for Market Street, learning from the past and drawing upon examples of successful urban design and street design trials. The exhibition will draw from Market Street’s history, citing ephemeral events that have shaped the spirit of the street and created the rich heritage it will draw from in the future. Provocative national and international examples such as Paris’ Plages, Bogota’s Cyclovia, and New York’s Times Square pedestrian plaza will be illustrated with films, images, and descriptions connecting San Francisco to efforts around the world advocating for more livable streets.

The exhibition, on display at SPUR from September 6, 2011 until January 6, 2012, will be accompanied by a series of interactive events, which will encourage participation and discussion about Market Street’s future. These include the staging of three interventions for the street, plaza and sidewalk, as well as walking tours and film screenings.

Join us on Tuesday, September 6 at 6pm for the opening party at the SPUR Urban Center Gallery. The party will feature talks by the Studio for Urban Projects, SPUR and UC Berkeley Professor of Architecture Margaret Crawford and refreshments.

Register for the opening party >>

See the full lineup of Reclaim Market Street! events >>

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