Paula Hendricks

Author ~:~ Writer ~:~ Book Designer ~:~ Book Producer

The Ferry Building, San Francisco

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I love adaptive re-use. I love using old buildings for new purposes. I love renovations that honor the old: old craftsmanship, old materials, and old styles. But I also love the new. I often say I want to stay in the Palace Hotel and have my wifi too.

I don’t know exactly how to label what was done to the Ferry Building. I know it was renovated or rehabbed or something. Upgraded, made seismically safer. But what I do know is I love it. I love the marketplace that has been designed into it and has sprung into life. There are so many reasons to go there now and there are so many ways I’m made to feel welcome, invited.

Just a few years ago, the only reasons to go the Ferry Building were to catch ferries, go the World Trade Club or to offices there. I’d go and look around and be disappointed. I loved being at the Ferry Building, I loved going to the World Trade Club. I loved walking along the promenade beside the Bay. I wanted more excuses to be there and more reasons to feel welcomed.

Now, there are restaurants that face the Bay, restaurants that face the Embarcadero, farmers markets along the front, and farmers markets in the back by the ferries. There is a bookstore, a coffee shop, a cookware store and so many food stores: from one that sells only mushrooms to seafood shops and butchers and organic grocery. Not to mention wine. A place to buy wine, drink wine, sample wine.

I love the hustle and bustle. I love the high end and the low end. I love that I can grab something to eat and then sit by the Bay and let the seagulls chatter at me. I can watch the fairy lights glow on the Bay Bridge and I can watch commuters come and go. It’s a great people-watching place.

Because all sides of the building are used, there are no back alleys, no long line of back doors. The back doors are right among the front doors. Garbage is taken out close to where we sit and eat great seafood. Workers are working. Tourists are gawking. Locals are feeling right at home.

It’s as though some magic wand was waved over the building and the glory of the past has mixed seamlessly with the new and the now. This beautiful grand dame of a building houses organic farmers markets and a sophisticated Vietnamese restaurant. The F-train stops right across the Embarcadero in this generous and lovely plaza. There is this sense of wholeness, charm, stability, solidity, beauty, and sustainability all in one place. It’s a place I like to go. I take friends; I go by myself. It is a destination and a pass-through place. It refreshes and nourishes me.

Hopefully it is a step in the direction of using our Bay more. We need more ferries, more water taxis, more pleasure rides. Why can’t our waterway be more like those in European cities? With commuter ferries and high speed hydrofoils. With local fishermen’s boats and pleasure craft. Why do we let only few out onto the water? With so much automobile traffic, we need to look to the water and public transportation to help us out. And what a glory that could be.

The Ferry Building works. I like being there. It’s a true gem in our urban environment. What more could I ask?

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