Salesforce Transit Centre in San Francisco is a unique transit and recreation complex located in one of America's most exciting cities. Except produced the concept of Salesforce Park, in collaboration with the team at Pelli Clarke & Partners, to show how urban parks can be fully integrated within a city, provide ecological benefits, and have vibrant community spaces. The idea behind the concept was to change the way people connect and enhance the city's biodiversity, health, and sustainability.

Salesforce Park provides a much-needed green space in downtown San Francisco and enhances biodiversity, sustainability, and the health and wellbeing of the city and its residents.

Global competition, localized concept

The redevelopment of the Transbay Transit Center (the name during construction) was put to tender through a global competition which, at the time, was one of the largest architectural competitions ever held. On September 20th, 2007 the TJPA competition panel announced that Except's rooftop garden concept had won.

We partnered with Pelli Clarke & Partners (formerly Pelli Clarke and Pelli) from conceptualization to design presentation and visualization.

Our design was driven by San Francisco's dire need for inner-city parks to promote biodiversity and provide a vital place for people to connect and socialize outdoors. The park is 5.4 acres (2.2 hectares) in size and caters to approximately 1.1 million residents who live within half a mile of the center and visitors from outside this area.

The concept utilized ecologically-designed space, to provide spatial quality, health benefits, economic value to their immediate neighborhood and beyond.

Salesforce San Francisco Transbay Center, as it is now known, features innovations such as water and air purification, ecosystem services, biodiversity boosters to provide a cleaner environment welcome flora and fauna back into the city - key to contemporary and sustainable urban renewal.

1939 - 2 small gardens.jpg
The original Transbay Terminal in San Francisco's SoMa district opened in 1939 as a central hub for the regions train network and growing commuter base.

Transbay Terminal: the case for renewal

The original Transbay Terminal was opened in 1939 to serve the city as a train station. It was converted into a bus depot in 1959 after struggling to expand the network and failing to sustain financial viability. Over the following decades, it thrived as a bus terminal, mainly serving San Francisco's downtown area and communities of the Bay Area.

The Transbay Terminal diversified its use over the years with the bus terminal housing a diner, a cocktail lounge, a newsstand, and a police station. Unfortunately, earthquake damage and new safety regulations brought in during the early 1990s forced all these tenants out.

In 1999, it was officially announced that the damaged terminal was to be replaced. After more than 70 years of operations, the original Transbay Terminal was officially discontinued as a bus terminal in 2010 before being demolished.

This image shows a birds-eye view of the Transbay Terminal in the mid-60s. The district was known for its web of highway on-ramps and the bus terminal as a hot, smoky and uninspiring heart of the region.

Salesforce Park: the jewel in the crown

The terminal's redevelopment aimed to create a unique and functional replacement of the old transportation hub and create an icon that brought people together for recreation and community development. The new center comprises underground train tunnels, a bus terminal, retail space, but the rooftop park is arguably the highlight for its many users.

The park sits atop the 1.5 million square foot Salesforce Transit Center and comprises walking trails, a "bus fountain" that follows the travel of the coaches on the ground floor, a playground, an 800-person amphitheater, and a restaurant. It also has a large public square and quiet areas set aside for reflection.

Considering the scope of this project the environmental concerns were considerable. With Atelier Ten, our environmental engineering partner, the Transbay design culminated in a globally unique proposition. Except was involved in core concept generation, roof park development, including the ecological system, water features, and funiculars/gondolas. Likewise, we also helped produce the main square, bridge connections, and park landscape design.

Aside from its ecological purpose and visual beauty, the park is designed for a range of mixed-uses and a sustainability-focused community hub for fitness, performances, education, and cultural engagement. There are 15 entry points to the fully-accessible public park which is also connected by footbridges to nearby buildings such as Salesforce Tower and 181 Fremont.

Ecological and innovative urban design

The park at Salesforce Transit Center is unique, not just in size and locality but in regards to features and functionality of its ecosystem-driven design. It's much more than just a rooftop with a few pot plants dotted about and is home to 600 mature trees and 16,000 plants across 13 distinct botanic areas such as redwood groves, desert and Mediterranean gardens, and a swamp/wetland.

Some of the more unique features that enhance the functioning of Salesforce Park's ecosystem:

  • integrated deep-soil ecosystems with mature trees
  • biodiverse self-managed ecosystems
  • rain and stormwater collection from surrounding buildings
  • water buffers and retention methods to save water loss and relieve city infrastructure
  • rainwater filtered through the park's plants and soil
  • air from the bus terminal is extracted and purified by filters in the soil
  • energy system utilizing ground-coupled heat storage for significant energy savings
This image shows various design aspects that utilize ecosystem-based services such as air filtration, phytoremediation ponds, heat reduction, and natural ventilation.

Neighborhood revival and profit sharing

Except proposed an innovative profit-sharing scheme to help fund the park, encourage cooperation and actively involve nearby residents and developers with the complex.

First of all, properties surrounding the park were valued by an independent and well-established third party and compared to future values - projected to five years after its completion.

Such a redevelopment and feature in any part of a city, regardless of the exact locality, undoubtedly adds significant value to nearby properties.

Developers struck a deal with owners to share a certain percentage of this rise in property value. However, the share toward the project was relatively small, and the property owners would gain the vast majority of the profits. Despite the low percentage given to the project, it provided enough support capital to ensure the park could remain public and enjoyed by all.

This collaborative profit-sharing initiative is easily replicable and a prime example of how circular business models can fund public spaces and sustainable urban development.

Salesforce Transbay Park
Salesforce park benefits all users of the transit center and the neighboring communities by providing a beautiful and healthy space to use and spurring economic development.

Current operational state and future plans

  • In 2017 the project was renamed Salesforce Park in a long-term sponsorship agreement with the Salesforce company, including the nearby Salesforce Tower.
  • Bus services began operating from Salesforce Transit Center in 2017
  • Salesforce park officially opened in 2019
  • The underground train terminal is not currently operating. Nevertheless, it's hoped to be completed by 2030, connecting Transbay Terminal to the local commuter network and the proposed high-speed rail to Los Angles.

June 1, 2006

Client & Partners

Project team

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