Embarcadero Rising

Embarcadero, San FranciscoPhoto source: Embarcadero, San Francisco by Curtis Fry, on Flickr

San Francisco's bayside waterfront is enjoying a true renaissance these days, but it wasn't always so. The Ferry Building was the heart of transit for the Bay Area dating back to 1877, with the current building erected in 1898. However, with the Bay Bridge opening in 1936 and the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937, automobiles overtook ferries as the primary way to get around the bay. The concrete-and-steel double span of the Embarcadero Freeway, erected in 1957, sealed the fate of the waterfront, leaving the Ferry Building and the piers to fall into dereliction. But the 1989 Loma Prieta quake caused part of the span to collapse, and it was eventually torn down in 1991, thus beginning a new dawn for the Embarcadero.

It started with the renovation of the Ferry Building, which in 2003 opened as the Ferry Building Marketplace, showcasing the very best of the Bay Area food scene. It's a one-stop-shop for all things gourmet, with a strong emphasis on local, organic and sustainable purveyors, such as Prather Ranch Meat Co., Miette Bakery, Charles Phan's Slanted Door and Out the Door, and much more. The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market brings local farmers and street food vendors on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. To enjoy a graze through many of the building's delicious businesses, be sure to book a tour with Edible Excursions.

Meanwhile, the 2000 opening of AT&T Park at the southern foot of the Embarcadero breathed new life into an area of town that had previously been a virtual no-man's land. With the extension of the Muni Metro line from Embarcadero Station to CalTrain, South Beach evolved from a dowdy, industrial tract to one of the hottest and most desirable neighborhoods in the entire city. Today, gleaming towers rise over the bay, commanding spectacular views -- and home prices. With the possible development of the Warriors Arena at Piers 30-32, the South Embarcadero shows no signs of slowing of growth in value.

The success of the Ferry Building opened the door for the North Embarcadero to reinvent itself. Piers 1 1/2, 3 and 5, all victims of the same dereliction as the Ferry Building, underwent massive renovations starting in 2007, and the work has born fruit, with esteemed restaurants and bars occupying the formerly empty spaces. The first was La Mar Cebicheria, in pier 1 1/2, followed by The Plant Organic Cafe in Pier 3. More recent additions are Charles Phan's Hard Water bar, also in Pier 3, and the recent opening of Michael Chiarello's Coqueta in Pier 5, which garnered three and a half stars from Michael Bauer.

Farther up, the TCHO Chocolate factory at Pier 17 is a great stop to learn about chocolate making (and tasting, natch), and the Exploratorium has recently moved into its new home at Pier 15.

And now, San Francisco's waterfront is getting its chance to shine on the international stage with the America's Cup in full swing. For the ultimate spot to view the races, hit up the world's largest pop-up sports bar, a 12,000 square foot watering hole in the newly redeveloped cruise ship port at Pier 27, open until the races end in September.

All of these events have kept values along the waterfront from South Beach through the Financial District and Telegraph Hill bouyant. If you're interested in living along the city's shimmering bayside, contact me, and I'll be happy to help you find a room with a view.