muni_generic.jpgSan Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, standing on a Chinatown sidewalk on a rainy afternoon, joined city transportation and Chinatown community leaders to unveil a decorative wrap draping a building located on the corner where work on the Chinatown Central Subway station will begin later this year.

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority Ed Reiskin said the event marked yet another milestone in the $1.5 billion project to extend Muni’s T-Third line from South of Market to Chinatown.

The vinyl wrap unveiled Friday at the corner of Stockton and Washington streets features renderings of the future station design, a Chinese mural provided by the Chinese Historical Society of America and artwork provided by students from the Chinatown YMCA.

The mural, originally painted in the 1950s by San Francisco native James Leong for the newly opened Ping Yuen public housing project in Chinatown, tells the story of Chinese immigrants laying down roots in America while staying in touch with their heritage, historical society executive director Sue Lee said.

The building wrap, she said, has already transformed the corner of the future station, a project she said will further transform the neighborhood.

“It will become a new gateway for Chinatown,” she said.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, whose district includes Chinatown, and Mayor Lee emphasized that the city worked closely with community partners, including the Chinatown Community Development Center and its advocates.

The work of the community, Lee said, was essential to ensuring the success of this project that will link Chinatown to communities in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

To make way for the station, 19 households and eight businesses that had occupied the soon-to-be-demolished building had to be relocated, and Lee stressed that the SFMTA worked with community partners to ensure that the residents and businesses were relocated “without lawsuits and without protests,” unlike other projects “where the impact wasn’t as smooth.”

The city plans to find permanent homes for those who have been displaced.

“That is as important as announcing that we’re forging ahead with a $235 million new subway station in Chinatown,” Lee said.

The mayor’s voice was sometimes drowned out by the screeching of brakes from the 30-Stockton bus, one of the city’s most heavily traveled lines and currently the primary route connecting Chinatown to Market Street and the rest of the city.

That is expected to change by the end of the decade, when the Central Subway is expected to open to the public. The light-rail extension is projected to carry 35,000 Muni riders daily by 2030, according to figures developed for the project by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.

The line will have a total of four new stations at Fourth and Brannan streets, Fourth and Folsom streets, Union Square, and the Chinatown station. All but the Brannan station are subway stations.

The wrap will be in place until the end of 2012, when the existing building it covers is expected to be demolished. The contract for that work has yet to be bid, and a pre-bid conference is scheduled for Tuesday.

All four station contracts, worth a total of about $600 million, “are on track to go out for bid,” SFMTA executive director Ed Reiskin said. The Union Square station is the next to go out to bid, with an expected advertise date of April 2012. The remaining two stations will be put out for bid this summer. Each station is projected to cost at least $100 million, with the Union Square station estimated to cost closer to $200 million.

“This is a big year for the Central Subway Project,” Reiskin said. “We look forward to continued momentum on this essential investment in public transportation in San Francisco.”

Patricia Decker, Bay City News

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