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CC Snapshot San Francisco: The Moscone Center

The Snapshot: The George R. Moscone Convention Center (popularly known as the Moscone Center)

Location: 747 Howard St, San Francisco, CA 94103; Two underground halls underneath Yerba Buena Gardens, known as Moscone North and Moscone South, and a three-level Moscone West exhibition hall across Fourth Street.

Year Opened: Moscone South opened in1981; Moscone North opened in 1992; Moscone West opened in 2003. Moscone Center South (the big hall that hosted the 1984 Democratic National Convention) was demolished in 2016 (except for the underground exhibition hall) and is soon to be the site of an even bigger hall.

Ranking: 16th largest convention center in the U.S. (1,139,775 total sq.ft. with 601,574 sq ft of that being dedicated expo space) after expansion is completed in December

Renovations & Expansions: Currently undergoing a $500 million expansion (from May 2015-Dec. 2018) that will add more than 305,000 square feet of new space, including a new 50,000-square-foot column-free ballroom and more than 80 meeting rooms. The project is creating more than 500,000 square feet of contiguous space for exhibitions and meetings. There will also be more than 20,000 square feet of secure outdoor terraces suitable for receptions and more than 100,000 square feet of pre-function lobbies with views of the city and the surrounding Yerba Buena Gardens.

Square Footage: Currently, the Moscone Center (North, South and West) consists of more than two million square feet of building area, including more than 700,000 square of exhibit space, up to 106 meeting rooms, and nearly 123,000 square feet of pre-function lobbies. It covers more than 20 acres on three adjacent blocks and anchors the 87-acre Yerba Buena Center redevelopment district.

Largest Shows: In 2016-17, over a million attendees or exhibitors registered or were ticketed for an event and attended such large shows as SalesForce (in 2016, 171,000 registered attendees from 83 countries made it the second largest tech event in the U.S.) and the San Francisco International Auto Show (now in its 60th year, it’s the second largest auto show in the western U.S.). Other large shows include Macworld, the American Psychological Association, Wondercon’s comic book conference is one of the biggest in the world, Oracle World and Seybold for the techies.

Fun Fact #1: On December 8, 1978 the Board of Supervisors and Mayor Diane Feinstein declared that the convention center be named after George R. Moscone as a fit and proper memorial to the memory of the late Mayor who was assassinated in November 1978.

Fun Fact #2: For both Moscone North and South, the relationship between the largely underground site and the pressures of the water table called for an unusual approach to excavation and foundation work. Nearly 1.2 million cubic yards of earth were excavated from the two 11-acre blocks, followed by pouring a 7-foot thick steel-reinforced concrete mat built to withstand constant ground water pressure.

Fun Fact #3: The Moscone South lobby, paved in granite and enclosed in glass, is dramatically supported by four large tubular steel trusses weighing 65 tons each and spanning more than 120 feet. The Moscone North lobby features extensive use of skylights and large expanses of glass on both north and south exteriors, admitting natural light to the street-level lobby and illuminating the exhibit hall concourse more than 30 feet below.

Fun Fact #4: Highly engineered to meet stringent seismic standards, a unique coupled-girder system is designed to minimize structural damage in the event of an earthquake up to a magnitude of 8.2, in combination with a system of 248 friction dampers that act to dissipate seismic energy.

Fun Fact #5: Moscone Center was featured in the 1995 movie The Net, starring Sandra Bullock.

Operations: The Moscone Center is owned by the City and County of San Francisco. The Moscone Center is privately managed by SMG. SMG was founded in 1977 to manage its first account, the Louisiana Superdome. Since its founding it has grown to over 170 facilities.


The last major beam of steel (337,000 pounds in total) was erected at San Francisco’s Moscone Center on March 12, reaching a major milestone in this $551 million expansion project that will create an exciting urban landscape while bringing the center’s total exhibit space to more than 504,000 sq. ft. “I am proud to say that the project is on time and on budget and we are looking forward to the grand opening ribbon cutting, scheduled for Jan. 3, 2019,” says Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association. “San Francisco welcomes more than 25 million visitors each year, and over 20 percent of those visitors pass through the Moscone Center. It is important that San Francisco stay competitive with expanded and upgraded convention facilities. This project has achieved that.”

About 40 percent of the expansion opened in September 2017 and has been in active use. The project also includes two new pedestrian bridges across Howard Street, the East Bridge and West Bridge. The East bridge will allow attendees to access the upper levels of Moscone North and Moscone South without returning to ground level. It will also feature a public art piece designed by Leo Villareal, who also designed the iconic Bay Lights on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The West Bridge is a public access bridge connecting the Yerba Buen a Gardens on either side of Howard Street.

The expansion of Moscone Center is designed to be LEED Platinum Certified. Sustainability features include the largest rooftop solar array on a building in San Francisco, generating up to 19.4 percent of the building’s energy needs. Moscone Center will be net-positive on water, on on-site water treatment plant and will be a zero-emission building. Behind-the-scenes benefits include an expanded kitchen, expanded freight access for move-in, move-out; built-in show offices and an improved public realm in areas around the center.

The architects are Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, in association with Mark Cavagnero Associates. The construction contractor is Webcor Builders. Project management and construction management are by San Francisco Public Works and the San Francisco Tourism Improvement District Management Corporation (SFTIDMC). The Moscone Expansion project is a partnership between the SFTIDMC and the City & County of San Francisco.


Within a five minute walk from the Moscone, you can find great Italian food at Pazzia (337 3rd St.), amazing Thai food at Koh Samui and the Monkey (415 Brannan St.), and an excellent Mexican lunch at Chavos (595 Bryant St.). But my favorite spot for chicken marsala and Valrhona (premium chocolate) truffle cake in San Francisco is Puccini & Pinetti’s, (129 Ellis Street). It bills itself as “Union Square’s neighborhood classic that feeds your appetite for fun, spirits and extremely good food“ and it’s won such honors as Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence in 2013, OpenTable Diners’ Choice in 2011, and was voted one of the “Top 5 Parties and Groups Restaurant” in the San Francisco Chronicle and voted one of the “Top 10 Italian Restaurants” by CitySearch. Best of all, it’s affordable, delicious, has a great ambience and it’s close to the Moscone.


According to SF Travel Association, the city and county of San Francisco have approximately 218 hotels with 34,002 rooms. I don’t know if those numbers include the amazing hostels or the extraordinary B&Bs, but if you’d like to have an experience beyond the Westin, Hyatt, Marriott, InterContinental, W, Four Seasons, Hotel Palomar, etc., surrounding the Moscone, may I suggest a stay at the San Francisco Zen Center, (300 Page St.) founded in 1962 by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, known for the classic Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind. It’s one of the largest Buddhist training centers outside Asia and has a diverse group of students, visitors, lay people, priests, and monks guided by teachers who follow in Suzuki Roshi’s way. City Center offers seven charming guest rooms for short-term stays and personal retreats where guests are welcome–but not required–to join in the daily meditation and programs.

Also, opening this summer is the new Lodge at the Presidio (national park). As the closest lodging to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, this newly rehabilitated historic boutique hotel will provide unparalleled views of the bridge, the Presidio’s lush 300-acre forest, the San Francisco Bay and the city skyline. The 42-room Lodge at the Presidio is housed in the former army post’s Montgomery Street Barracks, built between 1895-97 by the U.S. Army to accommodate six artillery companies, a cavalry troop, and two infantry companies. Its rehab is part of one of the largest historic preservation projects in the U.S., joining over 470 structures in the Presidio on the National Registry of Historic Places. The Lodge at the Presidio and the acclaimed Inn at the Presidio, are owned by the Presidio Trust and operated by Waterford Hotels.


Take a cable car ride to Fisherman’s Wharf and make sure you take a look right at Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world, for a breathtaking view of the Bay. Wander through Ghirardelli Square to stock up some chocolate-covered snacks at Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Choclate Shop. Follow the sounds of barking sea lions to Pier 39 and watch the street entertainers (one might be the next Robin Williams) or wander through 300 feet of clear tunnels surrounded by sharks, eels and octopus at the Aquarium of the Bay’s underwater wonder world. I enjoy just walking the streets and admiring the turn of the century architecture – and checking out the music at The Top of the Mark, Le Colonial, Lefty O’Doul’s, The Gold Dust, Savoy-Tivoli (by Coit Tower), the Verdi Club and so many more!

These stories originally appeared in the May/June issue of Exhibit City News, pp. 10-11 & 70. For more pictures and original layout, visit 



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