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Cranespotting

The 50 groundbreaking, zeitgeist-revealing projects that are reshaping San Francisco right now.

The Transbay Transit Center, arriving 2017.

Every crane on every corner tells a story, and the two dozen–plus steel jibs currently soaring overhead have this to say about San Francisco: We're not messing around. With the economy booming and the cork finally popped on mega-projects that have been bottled up in the pipeline since the Newsom era, there are nearly 150 major real estate developments under construction in the city, and another 145 or so are through the approval process.

Counted among them are some of the biggest civic makeovers in decades, including the Transbay Transit Center, which is anchoring the transformation of a 12-block swath of downtown, and the four-decade-spanning Hunters Point project, which includes an eco-scrubbing of the shipyard and a planned community with parkland and thousands of affordable housing units. So widespread are the changes, and so fast are they occurring, that we can no longer rely on even our most steadfast truisms about our neighborhoods. Of course, people now would kill to live in Hayes Valley, close to the shops selling Jimmy Choos and $7 ice cream cones. But in mid-Market? On Van Ness?

What follows is not a comprehensive list of San Francisco’s biggest and costliest developments, though some certainly fit that bill. Rather, it’s a selective panorama of the 50 buildings that best tell the story of where San Francisco is headed, whether we’re ready or not.

Castles in the Sky: Downtown Titans
Nabe Changers: Neighborhood Defining Apartment Buildings
Open for Business: Office Buildings, Malls, and Hotels
Cultural Beacons: The Arts Will Endure
Urban Levittowns: Planned Communities, Hold the Vanilla
Service by Design
Modern Overhauls for Civic Stalwarts

Originally published in the November issue of San Francisco

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