San Francisco will solicit feedback on plans to improve the Powell Street pedestrian and cable car experience at an open house Wednesday afternoon.

The city is working with the Union Square Alliance — the area’s business improvement district — on a $4 million project that hopes to spur economic development and honor the history of the cable cars that run up and down Powell Street.

A number of businesses have fled the Powell Street area near Union Square in recent years, including Westfield mall, the city’s largest shopping center. Most have cited a lack of customer foot traffic since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in their decisions to leave.

Designs by San Francisco-based firms Field Operations and SITELAB Urban Studio include wider sidewalks that stretch to the edge of the cable car zone and the removal of restaurant parklets that clutter the street. They also envision an array of new light fixtures, including hanging lanterns and a giant starburst chandelier at the intersection of Powell and Market streets.

“I’m pleased that the design not only respects and celebrates San Francisco’s rich history but adds a layer of modern design. It’s a perfect hybrid of the past and future,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, whose district encompasses the project.

The initial design phase has used up nearly $500,000 of the current $4 million budget.

FILE PHOTO: San Francisco Mayor London Breed joined city officials and community members in celebrating the 150th cable car anniversary on Aug. 2, 2023. “Not only was a cable car invented here and others followed in other cities around the entire world,” Breed said, “but right now the cable car only exists in the city and county of San Francisco.” (Olivia Wynkoop/Pagransen)

Peskin and Mayor London Breed announced the funding for the improvement project last year, but the Union Square Alliance estimates that a “full recovery” for Powell Street could cost up to $30 million.

Breed has proposed putting a general bond on the November ballot to fund the initiative to completion.

“The design vision for Powell Street calls attention to the corridor’s historic and prominent status as San Francisco’s gateway, home to the iconic cable car that connects residents and visitors alike to our remarkable city,” said Laura Crescimano, Co-Founder and Principal of SITELAB Urban Studio.

Riley is an intern at Pagransen through the Dow Jones News Fund. She is a rising senior at the UC Berkeley, where she studies political science and journalism. Previously, she was the university news editor at her student newspaper The Daily Californian, overseeing coverage of student government elections, a new chancellor and the Gaza solidarity encampment. She enjoys reporting on politics, housing and homelessness — and using as many em dashes as her editors will allow.