Small Spaces? No Problem for San Francisco’s New Urbanites

Contributor: Swinerton Blogger   |   November 05, 2013
Small Spaces? No Problem for San Francisco’s New Urbanites

Anyone in doubt of San Francisco’s post-recession building boom need look no further than the skyline for evidence, as an army of cranes now accents the city’s famous hills and iconic bridges. With around $25 billion in construction currently in the picturesque pipeline, city planners, developers, designers, and urban builders like Swinerton all have a hand in shaping the future landscape of a city that is both steeped in history and forward thinking, as the launch pad for countless startups and high-tech success stories. Steve Johnson, vice president and division manager of Swinerton Builders, addressed 200 other movers and shakers of the residential market last week at Bisnow’s third annual San Francisco Multifamily Summit, held at the Intercontinental.

An influx of tech-savvy Generation Y residents is driving much of the current development, and many projects cater to the preferred lifestyle of a constantly connected urbanite. According to Steve and other panelists, these residents—mostly renters—put a premium on location, with a willingness to live in small spaces or transitional neighborhoods in order to have an engaged social experience at the heart of the city’s action. Plush amenities like gyms, car sharing stations, media centers, and spaces for socializing can make up for diminutive square footage and a costly rental market that often extends “roommate culture” well past one’s college days.

Several of Swinerton’s current projects, including the towers of NEMA and Trinity Place in the Mid-Market neighborhood, are designed with this lifestyle in mind and align with the concepts of New Urbanism—a city planning movement that promotes work-live-play integration through balanced, sustainable, mixed-use development with easy access to public transportation and walkable destinations.

The Bisnow panel also hypothesized on potential “black swans” facing San Francisco’s building community amidst the boom. According to Steve, the construction labor force is a big unknown. “We cannot predict the availability of labor in San Francisco in the next one to two years. With the amount of construction going on, the efficiency of the labor force is going to be diluted.” The panel also touched upon the entitlement process and opportunities outside of San Francisco.

One thing’s for certain—a new wave of tablet-toting New Urbanites will soon be calling San Francisco home. So the next time you’re walking around town, be on the lookout for the Swinerton banner flying high, adding a welcome new layer to the city’s historic streets!

-By Madigan Talmage-Bowers