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Fire Destroys $227M Construction

Monday, March 17, 2014

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Cleanup and the search for answers continue in San Francisco, where a nearly completed multimillion-dollar luxury apartment building went down in a massive blaze last week.

Reports say one of the 172-unit building blocks at the $227 million Mission Bay 360 apartment project caught fire on the building’s ninth floor just before 5 p.m. Tuesday (March 11).

San Francisco fire
@remplej / Twitter

The $227 million Mission Bay 360 apartment building, set to open in August, went up in flames just before 5 p.m. Tuesday (March 11).

No serious injuries were reported in the blaze. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries, reports said.

The complex was set to open in August. Fire-suppression systems had not yet been installed on the block involved.

More than 150 firefighters prevented the five-alarm fire from igniting nearby structures, though embers rained down on a neighboring building’s terrace. More than 300 residents who lived in nearby buildings were temporary displaced, reports related.

Demolition to Last a Week

Local reports quoted law enforcement as saying that dismantling the wood-framed building would take a week.

The debris will likely be hauled to landfills, as nothing is salvageable, reports note.

The general contractor for the Mission Bay 360 project is Boston-based Suffolk Construction Company. The developer is BRE Properties, headquartered in San Francisco.

Neither company responded to a request for comment Friday (March 14); however, media outlets have reported that the team plans to rebuild the project.

Cause Uncertain

The cause of the fire had not yet been officially determined as of Friday (March 14) morning.

Officials and investigators, however, say welding was apparently underway.

“They were doing some welding,” San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee told reporters. “We don’t know what occurred there. I’ll be very patient to wait until the investigation is concluded by the Fire Department and by the contractors themselves.”

Fire officials told media outlets that it would take “a long time” for its investigators to sift through the remains, due to the amount of damage the building sustained.

AT&T Park
Broken Sphere / Wikimedia Commons

The fire was located a few blocks from the San Francisco Giant's AT&T Park in the Mission Bay area.  Nearby structures were not damaged, but hundreds of residents were temporarily evacuated.

Engineers hired by Suffolk were reportedly inspecting the charred remains of the complex.

Suffolk is a national construction management firm that specializes in projects in the healthcare, education, science and technology, federal government, and commercial sectors. It also has completed numerous residential projects.

Risky Stage in Project

Buildings are at relatively high risk at this stage of development, according to the secretary/treasurer of the San Francisco Building and Construction Trade Council.

“Once the sprinklers are in, it’s great. Once the drywall is in, it’s great. But prior to that, there’s a vulnerability in this type of structure,” Michael Theriault told the San Francisco Chronicle.

He said the Mission Bay 360 complex was at a similar construction phase as a shopping district in San Jose’s Santana Row that went up in flames in 2002. The cause of that fire was never found, the newspaper noted.

Mission Bay

The Mission Bay 360 project is one of many new additions to the Mission Bay area, a onetime industrial area along the San Francisco Bay.

The area is “poised to become not just any new neighborhood in the city, but an example of how a classic city can keep up with the times without changing its character,” according to Curbed.

When completed, the apartment project on 3.7 acres was expected to feature 360 rental units, with the first floor reserved for retail.

San Francisco Bay
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers / Robert Campbell

The Mission Bay 360 project is one of many new additions to the Mission Bay neighborhood, a onetime industrial area along the San Francisco Bay.

Rebuilding, Need for Housing

Though the project will likely be rebuilt, there was no immediate indication of when that might happen, reports said.

In order to rebuild, the builder will first have to prove the foundation is stable, according to San Francisco building officials.

“There’s a huge need for housing right now,” John Rahaim, the city’s planning director told a local news outlet.

“Losing these units at this time is a real concern.”


Tagged categories: Accidents; Condominiums/High-Rise Residential; Contractors; Fire; Good Technical Practice; Health and safety; Residential Construction

Comment from Bill Connor, Jr., (3/17/2014, 2:37 AM)

Apparently the structure as was largely wood frame as was Santana Row. This type of building is highly vulnerable at this point of construction. Perhaps SF should reconsider the change in building codes that permitted this project to be built in the manner that it was built.

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