Ghirardelli Square: The Next Ferry Building?

If the last time you were in Ghirardelli Square was to escort a visiting elderly relative who wanted to buy fudge with traveler's cheques, that's because it kind of sucks.

But as a historic pod of 12 buildings dating as far back as 1864, it certainly has potential beyond its current 55 percent occupancy rate and general forgettable-ness. (Remember, the Ferry Building used to be walled off from everything by an elevated freeway.) In perhaps a bit of recognition that it's underutilized and unloved, Ghirardelli Square has been purchased for $56 million in preparation for a big, post-recession zhoozh.

And not by some mall-builders, either. Jamestown Properties also owns New York's Chelsea Market and Atlanta's immense Ponce City Market, each highly successful foodie meccas in their respective cities. As the S.F. Business Times notes, “the goal is to make the property interesting and unique enough to draw San Franciscans.” The sellers rejected bids by several would-be suitors before Jamestown rang the bell.

This is pretty much a solid win. Ghirardelli is too historic for much of anything bland or unsightly to be built, and mercifully, it's not being converted to condos with “GBUS to MTV” loading zones, either.

And if you truly suffer from a crippling tourist allergy, the buildings will still be sequestered there next to the Wharf. But maybe it'll become a destination for even the most discerning of locavores, too. We shall see.

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