After purchasing the struggling center in 2006, Westfield Group and Forest City Enterprises decided that the original design made the center an island onto itself without relating to the pedestrian traffic. To address this and potentially boost profits, they have proposed a $30 million "extreme makeover" set to break ground this fall and topout by Thanksgiving 2010.
The cavernous entrance will be replaced by shops that open to busy sidewalks. The Sci-Fi interior will be toned down and views will be emphasized, not obscured. It should be said that Sony purposely designed the center specifically to pretend the outside world didn't exist for a very simple goal: to distract patrons and trap them inside "for a bite to eat or for entertainment the whole day," according to Sony's original brochure. This is evident as the main entrance at Fourth and Mission is only eight feet high, a dark passage leading to a dull space dominated by the movie-ticket counter. Along the park, the building was designed with a 64-foot-high glass wall, but Sony scrunched the interior lobby with beams and catwalks to dazzle patrons with what the press kit described as a "celebration of urban vitality."
So last week, the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency gave a green light to Westfield and Forest City to embark on the overhaul and revitalization. The "front door" will be moved 35 yards down Fourth Street, where 12-foot-high retractable glass panels will replace eight doors. This will allow open views of the park from Fourth Street, since the current structural clutter will be minimized to create a 34-foot-high atrium separated from the park by the existing clear wall and visually connect interior and exterior spaces.
Also, most of the restaurants which are now located within the building will be moved to the street level so as to spill onto the park and foster more of an interaction with the community an integrate the Metreon into the surroundings.
I am always the first to advocate that buildings should relate to their surroundings but I think the Metreon was successful at what it did for the time period that it did it. If one wanted to spend the whole day out, you could find something for the whole family to do without leaving the building but I guess times have changed and residents want some more urban interaction these days. That being said, I think these are some good changes that are being proposed and will only integrate it better within the city.
Images obtained from: www.sfgate.com