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San Francisco Ferry Terminal Project Lurching to the Finish Line

The vision, about to become the reality, of San Francisco’s gleaming new Ferry Terminal.

Though thoroughly bedeviled by delays and problems, the first phase of the dramatic new San Francisco Ferry Terminal is set to open any day now in all its glory.

Fears of a BART strike had put workers onto a fast track that would have had the new facility ready by the first week of September in case tens of thousands of displaced commuters turned to ferries. However, a settlement between BART and its workers allowed a return to normal.

"Normal", in the case of installing renowned architect Boris Dramov’s exciting vision for a world-class ferry terminal, means non-stop problems, frustration and delays. From the very start of this eight-year (and counting) project, project managers have been harried by unreliable subcontractors and vexing environmental concerns.

It has all served to wreak havoc on the nerves of Port engineers, but they are the first to say that it will all be worth the time and trouble once the beautiful new Terminal finally opens. The existing ferry docks at the foot of Market Street are dingy, creaky, makeshift affairs, an altogether uninviting mess, with poor signage and an utter lack of protection from the elements.

The lay of the land for the project underway to create the new San Francisco Ferry Terminal.

The new terminal will greatly improve both the form and function of regional commuter ferry service and long-suffering commuters are not the only ones who stand to benefit from the coming improvements. San Francisco’s important tourism industry also hopes that the handsome new facility will be attractive to Bay Area residents wanting to use ferries to visit the City. The recent terrorist attack, and linked projections of drops in tourism reaching 20% or more, gives new importance to these hopes.

Bay Crossings recently asked Boris Dramov, the architect of the new San Francisco Ferry Terminal to visit with us and discuss the ideas that went into his design. Dramov has designed waterfront projects all over the world, including the Harry Bridges Ferry Plaza (in a design consistent with the new Ferry Terminal). He recently led Roma’s team of designers in preparing the winning submission to design our nation’s monument to Martin Luther King, to be built on the mall in Washington, D.C. Nieret Mizushima, Chief Port Engineer of the Port Of San Francisco, and the woman in charge of the project, joined us.

"I wanted to establish the image of a transit service that is convenient, but also invested with a sense of style," Dramov explained as we walked onto a gangway leading to the floating barge that makes up the business end of the terminal, where passengers will actually board their ferries. A cantilevered white canopy, a welcome sight indeed come the rainy season, was above us.

The people that brought you the new San Francisco Ferry Terminal: from left, Leo Bragagnolo and Nimrat Bhattal, both of the Port of San Francisco; Jim Brady of Moffat & Nichols, Nieret Mizushima, Chief Port Engineer of the Port of San Francisco and project major domo and architect Boris Dramov of the Roma Design Group

"I’m very pleased," Dramov said, watching workers install railings and applying touch-up paint. Ms. Mizushima seemed pleased to hear Dramov say so, and maybe even a bit relieved.

"In choosing the materials for the Terminal, I sought to use the same vocabulary we used in the Plaza", Dramov continued. "The effect is intended to speak to the role this space has as a gathering place, counter-pointing the modern and the traditional. You see it with the granite portals through which passengers pass to enter the floats. The stainless steel on floats’ canopies recalls the new trolley stops on the Plaza."

We encountered a posse of engineers from the Port and one of the contractors, who drew Dramov and Mizushima into a huddle. When they emerged, we admired the new loading ramps that will make it much faster for passengers to get on and off ferries.

"There are three ramps on each side. They’re of improved design and all hydraulically powered," preened Chief Port Engineer Mizushima. "Altogether they’ll be able to handle double the number of people of the existing setup on Pier ˝. On the dual door catamarans we’ll be able to have two ramps working at once. And they’re safer for workers, too, who won’t be having to risk their backs picking them up".

The man and his mission: architect Boris Dramov looks over his labor of love, the new San Francisco Ferry Terminal

Dramov had wandered away, beaming up with enthusiasm at a ganglion of wires emerging from the ceiling of the canopy. "These are for the lighting. When lit up at night, it’s going to look like a jewel in a beautiful setting".

It was time for Dramov to leave for another appointment, and Mizushima, glancing anxiously at her constantly vibrating pager, signaled that she needed to go, too. We walked off the float and handed in our hard hats. Dramov walked a few hundred feet towards Market Street, stopped for one last look at his labor of love, smiled, turned, and went on. 







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