SAN FRANCISCO -- Just over 10 years ago, the Giants broke ground on AT&T Park in an area dominated by rundown warehouses. Today, the ballpark is the focal point of a revitalized neighborhood, teeming with new businesses, housing, educational buildings and research centers. Now, the team hopes to dramatically reshape the area again by transforming Parking Lot A into a signature segment of San Francisco. In response to the Port of San Francisco's request for proposals to develop what's formally known as Seawall Lot 337 and Pier 48, the Giants have submitted a plan to create "Mission Rock," a district combining open space, dining and entertainment venues, offices, housing and parking in the 16-acre parcel. As a prominent resident of the neighborhood, the Giants say they're well-suited and especially motivated to make sure it remains an active and vibrant community. That includes ensuring that an adequate level of parking is maintained for the new district, ballpark events and the UCSF Mission Bay campus.
The team's proposal calls for just under 2,700 parking spaces, two-thirds of which could be used for ballpark events to maintain comparable levels to the current transportation plan, which has been very successful. "The Giants believe there needs to be a balanced approach, where there's a reasonable amount of parking available and there's an emphasis on public transportation," said Jack Bair, senior vice president and general counsel for the Giants. "Any plan that's not balanced is not practical, so it's very important for us that this site be developed responsibly to maintain that balance, so it doesn't turn its back on the ballpark." But while the team's concern over parking is an important part of the $1 billion project, it's far from the main focus of the district. Indeed, renderings of the development are dominated instead by a 5 1/2-acre waterfront park that could accommodate 10,000 people on what would be dubbed the Great Lawn, offering spectacular views of the downtown skyline, the ballpark and the Bay Bridge. "We want to create something along the waterfront that is grand in scale," said Bair. "This can be one of the next best destinations for public gatherings and civic celebrations." The park would include the existing Junior Giants T-Ball Field, relocated to a more central location near the Lefty O'Doul Bridge. A kayak launch would eliminate the current practice of gingerly tiptoeing down the rocky shore to enter McCovey Cove. A sweeping boardwalk would extend over the water at the northeast corner of the park, and the statue of Willie McCovey and the Giants history walk that currently inhabit China Basin Park, which the Giants built in 2002, would be placed in suitable areas of the new space. The team would also renovate Pier 48's two sheds, creating an exhibition and event center and reopening the crumbling bayside wharf to foot traffic. Immediately south of the Great Lawn, the Giants plan for a music hall seating up to 6,000 that leads into a pedestrian path through a restaurant, retail and cultural district. It's no accident that this path connects the ballpark to the largest of the three parking structures, an 1,800-space facility that would be the one utilized for the ballpark -- the Giants want fans strolling along that thoroughfare before and after games, patronizing the businesses there. Giants vice president Alfonso Felder -- who crafted the transportation plan that now sees around 50 percent of all fans using public transit, walking or biking to come to games -- points out that although the total number of parking spaces is actually greater than the current amount serving the ballpark, they'll be used much more efficiently to satisfy a greater demand. Since most weekday Giants games are at night, many spaces would see double use, with workers from the surrounding offices and overflow from the UCSF Mission Bay campus occupying them during the day. The parking structure sits next to a new light-rail station along Third Street, meaning commuters could also easily use the parking spaces. "A big part of our success here has been that we have been embraced by our neighbors as an asset, and we don't want that reality to be eroded by a plan that puts stress and creates conflicts within our neighborhood," said Felder in explaining why sufficient parking is so important to the team. But he noted that parking doesn't dominate the proposal. "Great cities are not dominated by parking lots," he said. "The parking in this plan disappears." The Giants have already assembled a group of prominent partners for developing the site, with firms responsible for projects such as Mission Bay, Crissy Field and the Ferry Building on board. House of Blues, Anchor Steam, the Mavericks surf competition, Lucky Strike Lanes and Alice Waters of Chez Panisse have already signed on for the restaurant, retail and cultural district, which would also include "Vinter's Alley" with tasting rooms showcasing wines from around the world. "We want to create a pedestrian experience that would be fun to hang out in," said Bair, who noted that ballpark patrons spending postgame time in the district would serve as a form of traffic metering to further ease congestion. The main parking structure's location also provides better access to the Fourth Street Bridge and Interstate 280, alleviating pressure on the Lefty O'Doul Bridge. "We know that this is really the next big thing on the waterfront, and the stakes are just as high as they were for the ballpark," said Felder. "We feel really strongly that we need to be part of that, because it's an incredible opportunity for us and for the neighborhood."
Chris Shuttlesworth is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.