Foster + Partners has angered three ‘local’ firms by winning the stimulus-backed renovation of a historic San Francisco landmark
The decision to select a British firm to renovate 50 United Nations Plaza has provoked controversy as the project was made possible by the $130 billion federal stimulus fund for building renovation and construction.
Martin Bovill, vice president of development at Hornberger & Worstell (H & W), one of the firms that missed out, told The Architect’s Newspaper: ‘You’d think that it would make sense to keep the money here rather than send it overseas. It’s not like you’re in Timbuktu. You have very well-qualified firms in the city with experience in San Francisco historic preservation.’
Firms involved in the losing bids - SOM, Architectural Resources Group with HKS, and Hornberger & Worstell with William McDonough - have offices in San Francisco.
The Recovery Act that guides stimulus spending does not state that design and construction work must go to American firms, only that the building materials such as steel have to be produced in the states.
A spokesperson for the General Services Administration (GSA), which manages most federal buildings, told The Architect’s Newspaper: ‘We chose the best bid based on the qualitative factors mandated by the Brooks Act and look forward to moving through the negotiations process with ELS and discovering how much work will be done by local contractors and how many jobs will be created in the Bay Area.’
A six-story, 32,000m² Beaux-Arts building, 50 United Nations Plaza was designed in 1936 by Arthur Brown Jr, who was also behind San Francisco’s City Hall. The building has been vacant since 2007.
The GSA said the project aims to give the building a: ‘seismic upgrade and new electrical, heating, and plumbing systems. Windows will be replaced, elevators improved, and hazardous materials abated. The building will be changed to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. The interior spaces will also be reconfigured in order to make it more efficient office space.’
Foster & Partners declined to comment.
In a previous statement, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said ‘the decision to restore the beautiful 50 United Nations Plaza Federal Building is good news for San Francisco, for the Civic Center area, and for our city’s economy.’
‘Renovating this building, improving its energy efficiency, and making it more accessible for people with disabilities will create and save jobs for San Franciscans.’