WORK BEGINS in early March on an ambitious new plan to transform the forlorn public plaza at Fillmore and O’Farrell streets into a dynamic green space that honors the history and culture of the neighborhood.
“It’s got a lot packed in,” said architect Jane Martin, whose Shift Design Studio designed the new plaza. “We want it to be fun and engaging.”
The paved checkerboard with the names of key figures from neighborhood history will remain, but eight squares of bricks will be removed and converted to planted areas with built-in benches. All of the plants will be native to Africa, and African symbols like those on nearby buildings will also be incorporated into the design. References to the earlier history of the area when it was largely a Jewish neighborhood will also be included.
“Our plan is to subvert the checkerboard and use the plaza as a way to make sense of a lot of disparate elements that have been added over time,” said Martin.
The nonprofit San Francisco Beautiful is coordinating the project with the owners of the property, nearby merchants and city agencies. The public is invited to join a community work day scheduled on Saturday, March 15, which is also when the planting will be done. The plaza is envisioned as the first phase of a larger series of neighborhood improvement projects that will unfold over the next two years.
“This is one more bead on the string,” said Kearstin Krehbiel, executive director of San Francisco Beautiful.