Mayor Lee, Audi & Union Square Bid Inaugurate Pedestrian Promenade on Powell Street

07/13/11—Mayor Edwin M. Lee today celebrated the opening of the Powell Street Promenade — a new and innovative pedestrian space in the heart of San Francisco’s downtown. Through a collaborative partnership between the City & County of San Francisco, the Union Square Business Improvement District (BID), Audi of America, and many others, the Promenade will greatly improve the pedestrian experience along Powell Street, transforming the historically congested area into a vibrant, pedestrian friendly destination. 

“By working together, this unique public-private-nonprofit partnership creates a safe, green, forward thinking and contemporary public space for everyone to enjoy,” said Mayor Lee. “With Audi’s laudable commitment, the leadership of the Union Square BID and the great work of the City, we are improving the pedestrian experience to the benefit of residents, visitors and area businesses in our world class City.”

The Powell Street Promenade transforms two blocks, between Ellis and Geary Streets, along the famed Powell Street cable car line, and addresses overcrowding by creating an enjoyable public space to eat, chat and relax. It allows visitors and residents with a comfortable place to plan their visit out of the bustle of the corridor. The Promenade also includes features that calm vehicular traffic. This vibrant pedestrian corridor is one of the busiest in the nation and is typically traveled by more than 100,000 people on an average weekend. The Powell Street Promenade is the largest ‘Parklet’ installation in the City. 

“When we redesign and create new spaces and amenities that optimize the use of our public realm, we create an environment that improves the safety, functionality, and attractiveness of this busy corridor,” said Department of Public Works Director Ed Reiskin. “Public Works is committed to supporting innovative projects like these that enliven our City.”

San Francisco’s Parklet Program aims to satisfy the desire for wider sidewalks for people to sit, relax, and enjoy the city around them. This added public amenity encourages positive use of the public realm and provides economic revitalization by allowing for wider sidewalks and increased foot traffic. As of this release, there are 14 Parklets throughout the City. Twelve more have already been permitted and are being installed this summer, while an additional 30 locations are being reviewed for feasibility.

Audi of America partnered with the City & County of San Francisco and the Union Square BID to provide the necessary funds and guidance on the cutting-edge and modern design of the Powell Street Promenade. Designed by Walter Hood of Hood Design Studio, the overall aesthetic of the promenade is guided by a forward-thinking, people-friendly, environmentally-conscious philosophy.  By repurposing the on-street loading lanes along these two blocks of Powell Street, the Promenade provides six additional feet of continuous pedestrian space and adds amenities such as custom designed aluminum benches,  planters, tables, rails, landscaping, bike parking, and other pedestrian-friendly features. Low-energy Light Emitting Diodes (LED) lights will illuminate the space through power collected from solar panels. All landscaping is drought tolerant and materials used are designed to be long-lasting and reusable. People utilizing this Promenade will also have access to free Wi-Fi; which was installed as part of the project.
“Instead of overcrowded sidewalks and parked delivery vehicles, the Promenade prioritizes the needs of pedestrians, transit users and cyclists by creating an exciting public space in Union Square,” said Union Square Business Improvement District (BID) Board of Directors President David Nadelman. “It’s another wonderful addition to the City’s premier visitor destination. Audi’s forward-looking vision and the City’s commitment to improving our public spaces made it all possible.”

The project furthers the Union Square BID’s goal of enhancing and promoting the neighborhood for locals, visitors and tourists through maintenance and public safety measures, marketing, advocacy, beautification and capital improvement programs.   The Union Square BID will maintain the Promenade and keep it clean and activated.

“Audi is taking its passion for efficiency and sustainability even further with its involvement in the revitalization of Powell Street in San Francisco,” said Audi of America Chief Marketing Officer Scott Keogh. “This is an exciting and important project for the people of San Francisco and as a global hub of art and aesthetic; it seemed only natural that Audi – who remains steadfast in its commitment to progressive design and innovation – partner with the City of San Francisco to re-imagine this iconic area.”

In December of 2009, former Mayor Gavin Newsom together with the Planning Department, the Department of Public Works, the Municipal Transportation Agency and the San Francisco Great Streets Project worked with the Union Square BID and local merchants and property owners on a short term pilot to explore wider sidewalks along Powell Street. After reviewing the results of this initial pilot and holding several community meetings, an early concept vision was articulated by the Union Square BID and their pro-bono design team, Royston, Hanamoto, Alley and Abey and BAR Architects, with the goal of creating  an aesthetically pleasing and much needed new walking and resting area along Powell between Ellis and Geary.