Transamerica Pyramid renovation aims to revitalize downtown

Megan Rose Dickey, Dec 07, 2022

A rendering of the Transamerica Pyramid from Mark Twain Plaza. Photo: Courtesy of DBOX

The iconic Transamerica Pyramid Center is getting a makeover for its 50th anniversary.

Driving the news: Real estate development firm SHVO and Deutsche Finance America bought the skyscraper and its surrounding area for $650 million in 2020, and the groups are financing the $400 million redevelopment project.

Why it matters: Downtown SF has yet to fully recover from the impact of pandemic-related office and business shutdowns.

  • The revamping of the Transamerica Pyramid, thanks to the single-largest investment in downtown San Francisco since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, could be the spark the area needs.

What’s happening: Construction began Tuesday on the revamp.

  • The Transamerica Pyramid Center encompasses a whole city block, including the pyramid itself, Redwood Park, plus two additional buildings.
  • The plan is to add new on-site amenities like a fitness center, a members-only lounge, restaurant, sky bar and meeting rooms.
  • The renovation also includes bringing restaurants and shops to Mark Twain Street, which is connected to Redwood Park, the San Francisco Chronicle previously reported.

What they’re saying: “Our plan here is to restore and revitalize this block,” Michael Shvo, founder and CEO of the eponymous development firm, said at a press event Tuesday. He said their goal is for the center to “be the heart of San Francisco.”

  • Shvo said he envisions people coming to the revamped area to have ice cream with their kids, dinner with friends or breakfast in the park.
  • “Our commitment to San Francisco is to activate this entire block.”

A rendering of Mark Twain Plaza with shops and restaurants. Courtesy of DBOX

Flashback: The Transamerica Pyramid first opened in 1972, becoming known as the “Wall Street of the West.”

  • Critics, however, called the design “an inhumane creation,” “authentic architectural butchery” and “the most portentously and insidiously bad building” in SF.
  • Shvo, at the press event, said the criticisms stemmed from fears of San Francisco becoming more like skyscraper-heavy Manhattan.
  • The pyramid was once the tallest building in the city’s skyline, but that honor now goes to the behemoth that is Salesforce Tower.

What to watch: The first phase of the renovation, which will include the pyramid and park, is expected to be completed next December, followed by work on the other two buildings.