181 Fremont Opens in Heart of City
Source: San Francisco Business Times
Jay Paul made his name building suburban office campuses in the South Bay, but the developer kept an eye out for years for a project in his home city of San Francisco.
That chance arrived in 2013 when Jay Paul Co. paid $71 million for 181 Fremont, a site approved for an 802-foot-tall office and residential tower.
At the time of the purchase, Paul speculated that the building could welcome tenants two years later in 2015. Instead, it’s taken nearly five years.
“There were times when it wasn’t going as quickly or wasn’t going exactly the way that we wanted it to go,” said Janette D’Elia, Jay Paul’s chief operating officer. “But you just adapt and modify and react to whatever that challenge happens to be.”
In the end, the building turned out to be a “spectacular” addition to the city’s skyline, she said.
The project has involved several firsts for Jay Paul Co.: first high-rise tower, first residential, first San Francisco site and first urban office project.
“Our typical product is an eight-story suburban campus and we’re able to build those in about 12 to 18 months,” said D’Elia. 181 Fremont “has been a lot longer process for us and we’ve learned how to be patient through that because you can’t rush it. You’ve got to make sure that you’re dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s and making sure that everything is constructed properly.”
The $680 million project consists of 55 stories, made up of 436,000 square feet of office on floors three to 36 and 67 residential units on the upper 17 floors.
The tower, designed by Heller Manus Architects, features an angled, asymmetric exoskeleton structure. The location, in the heart of burgeoning SoMa, puts the building right next to the forthcoming Salesforce Transit Center with its five-acre rooftop park.
A pedestrian path will connect 181 Fremont to the park — a rare amenity in the Transbay district.
“We’re in close proximity to the transit station and the rooftop park and that’s been something that has been a vision of the city for many, many years and has really shifted the focus from the traditional Financial District to SoMa,” D’Elia said.
The building’s office floors range from about 10,000 to 14,000 square feet — relatively small compared with other new office buildings.
“The market had a strong opinion about our floorplate size,” said Karl Baldauf, a broker with Newmark Cornish & Carey, who represented Jay Paul Co. “We worked hard to come up with solutions to show … that the smaller floorplates were very workable.”
The developer scored a major coup last September when it inked a lease with Facebook for all of the building’s office space. The company’s first San Francisco office.
“To bring a tenant of this quality into San Francisco is huge,” Baldauf said. “You need to create a sense of urgency when you are building a ground-up spec development of this size.”
The developer was willing to wait to for the right tenant or mix of tenants.
“(Facebook) didn’t even know if they wanted to be in San Francisco when we first started talking to them,” D’Elia said. “One of the biggest challenges was helping them understand the market and understand how desirable this area could be for attracting talent.”
While the location of the tower is fantastic, the 0.35-acre site was tight for such a tall building, said Jeff Heller, co-founder of Heller Manus.
“The exoskeleton makes the building stronger than a traditional frame building. It’s very efficient, saves lots of materials over a conventional design,” he said.
The building also features the first elevator system in San Francisco that could be used for evacuation during an earthquake or other emergency.
As a result, the building needed fewer stairways, Heller said, which freed up square footage on each floor. Most new office buildings today are designed with elevators on one side to allow for open floorplates. 181 Fremont has elevators in the center of the building, but still has a sense of openness because it lacks support columns that would break up the floors.
Another feature is an amenity area with open air decks on floors 37 and 38 that marks a division between the office and residential sections of the tower.
Next step: Sell ultra luxe condos
Now that Facebook has commited to the office space, the developer’s next venture is to sell the condos, which are pricey even by San Francisco standards. The top-floor penthouse is priced at $42 million and other homes range from $2,400 to $4,500 per square foot — more than double what other condos go for in San Francisco.
“This is our first residential project,” D’Elia said. “It did make the project a lot more complicated because we really needed to figure out the best way to separate the two uses so that they would be compatible.”
The residential and office components each have separate entrances, lobbies, elevators and amenities.
“We’re not sure if the residents of 181 Fremont will actually be working for Facebook or not,” D’Elia said. Being near transit and having multiple uses in the building, “gives a 24-hour vibrancy to the building that it wouldn’t normally have if it was just an office building or a residential building.”
Description: A distinctive 802-foot mixed-use tower with 436,000 square feet of Class A office space with 67 ultra-luxury condominiums
Cost: $680 million
Developer: Jay Paul Co.
Brokers: Karl Baldauf and Lauren Whitlock of Newmark Cornish & Carey
Contractor: Level 10 Construction
Architect: Heller Manus Architects
Law firms: Sheppard Mullin (leasing) and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman (entitlements)
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