Apple Gets Approvals for Union Square Store


Apple got the approvals it needed Thursday to move ahead with plans to build a landmark store on Union Square, but not without hearing plenty of concerns about the project and its design.

The city Planning Commission voted 5-1 to approve the project at the corner of Post and Stockton streets that will replace the existing four-story Levi’s store with a two-story glass-and-steel retail home for the high-tech company.

“The project will be the flagship for Apple,” Rick Militello, the company’s development director, told the commissioners. “It will be more iconic than the glass cube (Apple Store) you may have seen in New York City.”

Although Militello dismissed the months of negotiations over the details of the project as “a process that made this a better project,” the commissioners found lots of room for more improvements.

Commissioner Kathrin Moore argued that the proposed plaza on Stockton Street, which will contain the Ruth Asawa folk-art fountain now on the site, was poorly designed and little more than an annex to the store.

“It’s an old-fashioned design, too symmetrical,” she said, also arguing that the plan for two outdoor lifts didn’t show enough concern for people with impaired mobility who want to use the plaza.

Other commissioners weighed in with their complaints. Commissioner Hisashi Sugaya, who was the lone vote against the project, argued that it was unacceptable to approve a two-story building that would trim retail space from Union Square, one of the city’s busiest shopping areas. He also suggested that the modernistic design of the store was a bad fit with the more traditional look of the other buildings in the area.

For Commissioner Cindy Wu, the proposed change to the Planning Code needed to allow Apple to build on the site is the wrong way to go and planners should find another way to get the project done.

Wu, Sugaya and Moore combined to block a recommendation that the Board of Supervisors approve the needed code adjustment, but the final decision rests with the board. No date has been set for a board hearing and vote on the proposed change, which would give Apple its final go-ahead for the store.

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