Creating and testing ideas for new public spaces in San Francisco.

Powell Street Promenade

Powell Street Promenade / Image by Sergio Ruiz (SPUR)
Location: Powell St between Ellis and Geary, San Francisco, CA 94102 show map
Phase I (Three-Day Pilot): December 11-13, 2009
Phase II: July 2011 – Present
Designed By: Walter Hood Design (Phase II)
Sponsored By: Union Square Business Improvement District


Phase II:
In December of 2010, Mayor Gavin Newsom announced the City’s latest Pavement to Parks project, a new and innovative public space in the heart of San Francisco’s commercial downtown as part of a new design and financial partnership between the City & County of San Francisco, The Union Square Business Improvement District (BID) and Audi of America. This new public space would take the form of a continuous pedestrian promenade along Powell Street for two blocks between Ellis and Geary Streets, running alongside the famed Cable Car. The new Powell Street Promenade would provide more space for pedestrians to sit and relax and enjoy one of San Francisco’s most vibrant corridors. The City, the BID, and Audi worked together over the following months to develop a final design.

Over an average weekend, up to 100,000 pedestrians walk along this portion of Powell Street, contributing to a highly animated yet often congested sidewalk experience. The Powell Street Promenade would provide extra space for people to walk, sit at a table or on a bench, chat with a friend, or just watch as thousands of people pass by. Wood, stone, and metal trim would provide a rich visual quality to the space, softened by landscaping and pedestrian scale lighting.

The full Powell Street Promenade was installed in July 2011.

Phase I:
During one weekend in December, 2009, Powell Street became the subject of an urban experiment between Ellis and Geary Streets. The office of Mayor Gavin Newsom temporarily removed some parking spaces to give pedestrians more walking space, from Friday afternoon to Monday morning.

Powell Street Promenade
Powell Street Promenade

Above images courtesy of RHAA.

Powell Street
Powell Street
Powell Street

Above images courtesy of Streetsblog SF.


Landscape designer and architect Walter Hood designed the inviting promenade, completed in July, 2011, with the Union Square BID as a project sponsor and Audi as the financial supporter.

The promenade is composed by a set of aluminum “ribbons” —with wooden additions— that flow at sidewalk level throughout the linear installation, changing form and direction at strategic points to form benches, tables, railing, and planters.

Providing additional space for pedestrians —tourists and locals alike— to stroll, linger, and rest in one of the busiest streets in San Francisco, the Powell Street Promenade has become one of the most successful and popular Pavement to Parks project.



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