The Great White Way

 Posted by on November 9, 2012
Nov 092012

My interest in the revitalization of Market Street came about when I wrote this piece for Untapped Cities about the Hibernia Bank Building.

A friend who has a wonderful website about the architecture of  Mid Market and other areas of San Francisco, titled Up From The Deep, introduced me to this project, and I feel so passionately about it and its success that I would like everyone to take the time to view the video, go to the website, and please, if you can, donate to the cause.


This is the purpose of the project

“In San Francisco, an unusual coalition of artists, city officials, property owners and residents is working together to reverse a 50 year decline of the once “Great White Way of San Francisco”. While many cities have attempted to revitalize neighborhoods through the convergence of arts and technology, few have been successful at doing so while preserving their unique cultures.

Will this revitalization unwittingly open the door to gentrification and displace the current low-income residents? Will the reality of pricing people out defeat the promise of lifting people up? Can political and ideological enemies put aside past differences and work together to make real change? Our film, 5 Blocks, is a journey through the trials and tribulations of a community struggling to transform itself from “skid row” to the promise and hope of a vibrant neighborhood.

As artists, we are keenly interested in the role that arts can make in transforming lives. This project follows a large-scale attempt to use the arts to transform an entire neighborhood, an ambitious and daunting task. This may be a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to revitalize this gritty neighborhood and, therefore, to document the process. The lessons learned, whether through success or failure, can serve as a model for other communities across the globe.

Through the process, we share the stories of the people who currently live and work in the neighborhood, people whose voices aren’t usually part of high-level conversations concerning their fate. It is vital to capture this story now, during the messy, difficult discussions about change, and while tentative first steps are taken.”

Artists that are participating in this project are:

Patricia Araujo.  Araujo has been familiar with SoMa, since she’s been painting San Francisco’s central city architecture for over a decade, addressing the themes of urban growth and decay. Her work has been collected in two books “SOMA Rising” and her latest “The City from SOMA Grand” which is the feature of a current exhibit at SOMA Grand that is running through December 15th.

Ronnie Goodman. After a 10-year sentence for first-degree burglary at San Quentin State Prison, Goodman, 51, came back to San Francisco, where he’d grown up, and found his way to Central City Hospitality House, which offers art programs for the poor and afflicted. His block prints have been displayed in galleries around town.

Mark Ellinger. Is my friend and an amazing photographer of the slowly dying architecture that made this city great.

Wendy MacNaughton. Wendy’s home town is San Francisco. She’s written advertising copy, designed humanitarian campaigns in Kenya and Rwanda, produced a film in The Democratic Republic Congo, sold used books, counseled survivors of torture, served as a social worker and non-profit advertising campaign director. She created and illustrated the national campaign for the first democratic elections in Rwanda.Wendy received degrees in art and social work from Art Center College of Design and Columbia University, respectively.



  5 Responses to “The Great White Way”

  1. Indeed, anyone reading this post who cares about the future of mid-Market–which is not only the main thoroughfare, but also the very heart of San Francisco, should watch the video and donate to the project. I personally have a long and deep relationship to the people and history of this long-neglected area, and I cannot overstate the importance of this documentary in determining their fate.

  2. This is amazing and wonderful. I did watch the video. I’m impressed with the fact that so many folks have been willing to get involved and get this done and that the mayor is involved. It would seem that with people working from both the bottom and top of the power structure it may well happen.

  3. Wow, I watched the video too. It would seem that if the property owners and the mayor are onside there is a good chance that the artistic community can take hold and really bring the area back to life. I can’t believe that they removed all those marquees.

  4. I always liove the green tone metal roofs. Nice capture.

  5. A wonderful bulding and a great project. I wish them success.