Treasure Island Is the New Alcatraz Thanks to $50M Public Art Project

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Treasure Island is home to a pretty good monthly flea market and a great annual music festival. But aside from that, there's not much reason to visit beyond the standard trans-bridge drive-by. But now, the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) hopes to change that with a massive transformation expected to entice locals and tourists alike. 


Just as the Bay Bridge is the new Golden Gate thanks to its glorious recent renovation, Treasure Island may be poised to be the next Alcatraz (minus that whole prison thing)—the Rock rose to renewed prominence this past year with the internationally acclaimed Ai Weiwei installation. Over the next 20 years, the man-made Treasure Island will undergo a major makeover. Among the new amenities will be a ferry station, up to 500 new hotel rooms, and what could be a killer public art program thanks to a massive $50 million budget. As a result, SFAC projects the island's population could swell from about 2,000 residents to an estimated 19,000. 

Built for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition, Treasure Island became a naval station soon after, and it remained active until 1997. Today, the island is home to a small, but diverse community that's poised to bust out—the construction of 8,000 new apartments (25 percent of which will sell at below-market rates) may be incentive enough to draw San Franciscans and Oaklanders alike who are looking for a cheaper place to live. 


Rendering from ‘Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island Design for Development’ (Photo: TIDA)

Meanwhile, SFAC’s master arts plan, expected to be unveiled by March 2016, seeks to make the spot an art-world destination: Think island-wide treasure hunts, dance performances, light displays, wind-activated art, and sculpture gardens. 

“As San Francisco is changing, this is really an investment in the role of artists in San Francisco and the artists who have made this city so great,” Tom DeCaigny, SFAC director of cultural affairs, told KQED. 

Working collaboratively with TIDA, the architects and designers behind the development, along with Treasure Island residents and the SF art community, SFAC’s plan will pinpoint sites for activation and detail a three-year schedule to jump-start a long-term process for public exhibits.


Overview from ‘Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island Design for Development’ (Photo: TIDA)

In addition to new homes and hotels, the development plan also includes basic infrastructure updates to Treasure Island’s streets, landscaping, an urban agricultural park and a new area of natural habitat called “The Wilds.”

So, will you be packing your bags? 

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