The Redevelopment of Treasure Island — Everything You Need To Know

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Most people would look at the desertions of Treasure Island as an eyesore and wonder why the decaying structures are still standing; that being said, my playground has been slated for demolition and redevelopment, in the process taking a neighborhood of 2,000 to 19,000 by creating new homes, shops, and parks.

I’ve always looked at the place as a playground, a place to explore, and a chance to discover things most wouldn’t ever know about. The island is rich in its interesting history and it’s surprising to see so many buildings that could have been utilized go to waste. 

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I took a trip out to Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island yesterday, to see how things were developing, or redeveloping, if you will. The first phase of the process has started on Yerba Buena Island with many of the homes there already vacant, fences with no trespassing signage have been erected, dumpsters are being filled with debris and heavy machinery are seen on standby.  

One of the buildings in the crosshairs is The Signal Room, formerly the Navy’s lookout and signal station for the entire bay, but in more recent times had found new life with trespassing parties. Near Cosson and Sage Halls all of the trees cut down in preparation for razing; the giant asterisk shaped buildings lay completely exposed, graffiti covered shells of their former selves. The former education centers have areas fenced off and visible crews working to clear the interior of asbestos. Building 180 which housed a great artist community that brought Bliss Dance and other large sculptures and pieces to Burning Man is another of the 40 buildings slated for demolition in phase one.

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In the beginning, Treasure Island, aka the ‘Magic Isle’, was originally part of a 735 acre large reef near the north end of Yerba Buena Island. The Army Corps of Engineers began its construction in 1936-37 for use as the city’s first airport following its use as the site for the city’s third World’s Fair. The 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition, ‘A Pageant of the Pacific’, included several very lavish fairground courts. Though millions of visitors came to the fair, the exposition was losing money to the tune of $4.1 Million, and ultimately shuttered its doors early.

In 1941 the Navy purchased the land shortly after Pearl Harbor, and the US’s official entry into the war; marking the end of a carefree time and the beginning of one that was tense and full of strife.  The Treasure Island Museum hosted a fantastic exhibit consisting of postcards and photographs of the Exposition in 2014; while the exhibit is now over, you can view documentation of the extravagant displays from the fair here:  Wish You Were Here.

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The plans from the Treasure Island Development Authority, include 8,000 homes (with a quarter of them being priced at below market value for use as rentals), a ferry terminal, 3 hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues, retail space, extensive open spaces (300 acres of parks, trails and habitats), and a surprising $50 million towards public art over the next twenty years. There’s currently also talk of George Lucas bidding to build his museum on the island, which may in part speed up the process of the ferry terminal being built.

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While I loathe to losing yet another fun and interesting place to explore with its ever constantly changing landscape (yes I’m aware that my idea of “fun”- traipsing through potentially perilous structures and photographing it for kicks, is not everyone’s cup of tea) – it’s incredibly easy to see the potential of the area, that it’s been a very long time coming, and I’m really excited to see how all of it develops.


Story by Jenifer KefferGet to know your community with our extensive events calendar. Need to know more about the Bay weekly? Subscribe to our newsletter.

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