Mint Plaza

Mid-Market, San Francisco

Prior to his role as Principle at BUILD, Michael Yarne, together with the Martin Building Company, transformed a derelict alley in downtown San Francisco into a lively public space that also functions as a storm-water capture-infiltration system. Envisioned as an urban stage, the iconic design belies its technical and programmatic complexity and creates a novel space for urban life. In 2011, Mint Plaza was the recipient of the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Award for Smart Growth Achievement. 

In April 2007, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the Office of the Mayor approved legislation to transform the 290-foot-long portion of Jessie Street between Fifth and Mint streets into San Francisco’s newest public open space, Mint Plaza. The entire process, from concept and financing to implementation, took just under two years to complete—quite an accomplishment to San Francisco. 

Existing streets and sidewalks were demolished and replaced with a new pedestrian surface composed of composite stone pavers, a steel arbor with climbing vines, trees and several rain gardens. The plaza was consciously designed to accommodate a wide range of uses, including art exhibitions, live music, cafes and small festivals, while also providing a quiet, green and clean refuge for neighboring residents, downtown employees and visitors to pause and relax.  

The approximately $3.5 million project is maintained and managed at no cost to the public by Friends of Mint Plaza, a California nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.

Planning Commission Approval: 2005 | Construction Start: 2007 | Completion Date: 2009 | Plaza Area: 18,000 square feet