Budget troubles stall Transbay’s rooftop park

The Transbay Transit Center will open without its planned rooftop park due to limited funding, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday.

The park is part of an ambitious design for a transportation hub that includes an underground train station and a four-story bus terminal at First and Mission. It may still be constructed after the center opens in late 2017, if the city can raise the necessary $24 million of private funds.

Plans for the rooftop park consist of a 5.4 acre “living” roof that would contain open lawn areas, gardens and an event space for concerts, according to the Transbay Joint Powers Authority website.

The potential park includes a “Bus Jet Fountain” feature stretching 1,200 feet across the roof. Peter Walker Parker Landscape Architects designed the space, describing this fountain on their website:

“… buses moving through the terminal trigger jets of water in the park above.”

The Chronicle reported last July that the project would cost $300 million more than its anticipated $1.6 billion budget, reaching a total of $1.9 billion.

A Bay Area building boom that has pushed up construction companies’ prices may have played a hand in the unanticipated spending, KQED reported this June.

Another factor may have been the sheer size and scale of the project; two Transamerica pyramids laid side by side would nearly fit in the construction pit currently occupying First and Mission.

The authority’s spokesman Adam Alberti told the Chronicle:

“We know the park will come to fruition, just not with the public dollars. … We are going to be relying more on private dollars.”

The park has been a major selling point for tenants of the center’s surrounding developments. It would be directly accessible from the fifth floors of the adjacent towers.

Former San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly told the Chronicle the park had helped convince the surrounding neighborhood of the Transbay Transit Center’s value:

“The park was always what we led with when talking about the project with the neighborhood. … It was always envisioned as part of the capital project.”

The rooftop space is not the only part of the center that has been affected by an overrun budget. On the center’s exterior, perforated aluminum has replaced glass to save $17 million. In its interior, a glass fiber finish on the walls was scrapped to save $53 million, Alberti told the Chronicle.

Construction of the Transbay Transit Center, with or without its delayed rooftop park, is only phase one of the plans for the property. Phase two, not yet funded, will create a downtown extension taking Caltrain and high-speed rail trains to the main transit center.