The middle stretch of Market Street in San Francisco has befuddled mayors, investors and entrepreneurs for decades. Studded with check-cashing joints, strip clubs and dollar stores, the seven-block strip known as the Mid-Market had resisted cleanup efforts and resolutely remained the same: a seedy place to visit day or night. Even the area’s community groups said they were fearful.
Mid-Market is home to some of the highest vacancy rates in the city for office or retail, despite its proximity to City Hall, which is a few blocks away.
So it seemed implausible that a young company, heralded as one of the technology industry’s next big things, would want to make its headquarters in Mid-Market. But in April 2011, that young company, Twitter, dispelled rumours that it was leaving San Francisco for a nearby city suburb and instead announced it was relocating to Mid-Market. In June 2012, it moved in.
Twitter leased space from Shorenstein Properties, a real estate firm based in San Francisco, known for its blue-chip office towers in the Financial District here. Shorenstein bought an 11-storey building in 2011 fronting Mid-Market that had been vacant for five years. For them, it made sense to buy the undervalued Art Deco landmark built in 1937, which had some of the most spacious floor plans in the city at a time when office space was tight. Twitter signed a lease until 2021 for 295,000 square feet in the building and could expand that as its work force grows. “In our gut, we believed if we changed it, they would come. We thought it would be a real catalyst for the neighbourhood,” said Charles W Malet, chief investment officer for Shorenstein Properties.
Now 15 other companies, like Spotify, Square and Yammer, emboldened by Twitter’s move and a city tax incentive that largely exempts them from city payroll taxes if they relocate to the Mid-Market, have committed to take 1.3 million square feet in the area, which the city has renamed Central Market. Apartment towers with 5,500 units are in the works, and arts groups, chefs, retailers and even a venture capital firm have taken up residence.